HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

Health Tips For Wearing Face Masks Health Tips

Years ago, fluffy dice were a popular accessory for car interiors. Nowadays, in these Corona-dominated times, you are more likely to see a face mask dangling from a rear-view mirror.

In many countries, face masks are now obligatory in certain situations. Whilst wearing a face mask for a few minutes now and then is generally not an issue, wearing one for long periods of time can, however, cause problems.

In the following, we have compiled a variety of helpful information to help you avoid spotty skin, bad breath and toddler tantrums.

Skin problems

Most of us have seen the photos posted by doctors and nurses on the frontlines of the pandemic showing close-ups of their facial skin, which is covered in red marks, hives and even bruises.

Regardless of whether you decide to buy a mask in a shop or online, or to create your own DIY version, you will probably soon experience the uncomfortable side effects of covering your nose and mouth for a prolonged period of time.

Protecting your face with a mask creates a hot, moist environment for your skin, which can lead to a build-up of sweat and oil on the skin under the mask. In turn, this can lead to inflammation, rashes, chafing and even acne breakouts.

By following the advice shown here, you will be able to reduce the unpleasant side effects of wearing a face mask.

The fit

It is extremely important that the mask does not press, scrape or scrub! If a face mask is tight or chafing, take it off or change it for a different type as soon as possible.

Wash your face before and after wearing a mask

In addition to washing your hands, wash your face thoroughly before and after wearing a mask. Specialists recommend the use of a foaming cleanser, as these remove oil more effectively than hydrating oils or balms.

People with very oily skin should look for a face wash which is specially formulated for their skin type, as removing excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin will prevent potential flare-ups and clogged pores.

Moisturise lightly

It is important to apply a lightweight moisturiser - even if your skin tends to be oily. What many of us are unaware of is that even people who are prone to acne may need a moisturizer, as skin hydration and skin oil production are separate issues. It is extremely important to keep your skin barrier in the best shape possible - particularly when wearing a mask. For this, the skin barrier must be both balanced and hydrated.

Do not wear foundation/concealer makeup under your mask

This might seem superfluous advice, but for people who are used to applying makeup to their faces as a daily routine, it may feel like a big step to take. Instead of applying foundation makeup to the entire face, use it only on the areas which are above eye level.

It is important to avoid using any form of potentially irritating or pore-clogging constituents on the skin which is covered by a mask. This is because the increased humidity under the mask could affect your skin's sebum production, thereby possibly leading to an increase in clogged pores and even acne breakouts.

Select a breathable cotton mask

Many experts feel that the general public should be wearing cloth face coverings, not surgical masks or “facepiece respirators”. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that there are currently shortages of technical masks for frontline healthcare workers.

If you decide to create your own mask, make sure the fabric that touches your face is comfortable. Cotton is a breathable fabric and will, therefore, be relatively non-irritating for the skin. Some experts advise adding an extra filter layer, such a coffee filter paper, between the fabric layers for added protection.

Gentle care for irritated skin

If you are already experiencing irritation or redness due to wearing a mask, treat your skin gently with simple care products. After removing the mask, wash the area with water and a mild cleanser, then apply a gentle healing cream in order to help the skin to heal naturally.

Glasses

If you wear glasses, you may have noticed that wearing a face mask causes the lenses to mist up. The reasons for this are simple – as are the solutions.

Why does it happen?

When a person wears a mask, warm breath escapes from the top of the mask and lands on the cooler lenses of his/her glasses. When that happens, condensation forms (“mist” or “fog”). The same effect can often be experienced when wearing glasses with a scarf or balaclava in the winter, or when opening a hot oven door, or when going from a cold environment into a warm building.

Bearing this in mind, if your glasses are misting up when you wear a face mask, it is due to the warm, moist air you exhale being directed up to your glasses.

How can I prevent my glasses from misting up when I wear a mask?

There are a number of solution possibilities. These include:

Soapy water - Just before putting the face mask on, wash your glasses with soapy water, shake off the excess and then allow the lenses to air-dry. This leaves behind a thin surfactant film that reduces the surface tension and causes the water molecules to spread out evenly into a transparent layer. This “surfactant effect” is widely utilised to prevent the misting of surfaces in many everyday situations.

The fit - Another possibility is to consider the fit of your face mask in order to prevent your exhaled breath from reaching your glasses. An easy solution is to place a folded tissue under the mask, across the bridge of your nose. The tissue absorbs the warm, moist air, preventing it from reaching your glasses. This method is, however, strongly dependent on the design of your glasses.

Many medical masks contain a bendable metal strip which enables the wearer to mould the mask to the shape of their nose and cheeks. (By the way: This can also be achieved with homemade masks, by sewing a pipe cleaner or twist tie into the top of your mask.)

When the mask fits properly, most of your breath should go through it and not out of the top or the sides.

Pull the mask up higher - A simple way of decreasing the amount of mist on your glasses is to pull the mask higher up your face and to use the weight of your glasses on top of the mask to block the flow of air. Again, this method depends on the design of the glasses.

Commercial wipes and sprays - These can be very effective but can also be very expensive. Furthermore, anti-mist solutions may not work as well on glasses with certain coatings, such as anti-glare, anti-fingerprint, or anti-smudge. It is therefore very important to read the small print on each product.

Other methods include treating the lenses with shaving cream, baby shampoo or toothpaste. These methods may work, but conclusive evidence is currently lacking.

According to experts, polycarbonate lenses demist more rapidly than those made of glass.

Bad breath

Generally, we are unable to smell our own breath. Family members, friends, colleagues, etc. rarely broach the subject for fear of causing embarrassment or endangering a relationship. After all, it is not the nicest subject to confront someone with.

Many people have noticed in recent months that they can smell their own breath when wearing a face mask. If this applies to you, it means, unfortunately, that you are suffering from halitosis. As are the people in your immediate vicinity!

Dentists will, however, confirm that vast numbers of people suffer from bad breath. But in addition to the obvious impact on your popularity, bad breath can also be a sign of diseases and health conditions - some of which may be serious.

There are many reasons why breath can smell bad. Here are just a few:

  • Poor dental care: not brushing often/long enough, not brushing correctly, not using floss…
  • Eating/drinking smelly food/drinks: coffee, garlic, fish, spices…
  • Eating things containing large amounts of sugar (mouth bacteria love sugar…)
  • A low-carb diet (the body is forced into ketosis, in which the body burns fat to produce ketones, which are used for energy. These, however, smell strong when excreted.
  • You breathe through your mouth. When we sleep, saliva production is reduced, resulting in a horrible taste in the mouth when we wake up. Mouth breathing or snoring adds to this effect and can even be dangerous in the long run.
  • Medications. Many medicines can cause bad breath.
  • Stuffed-up nose/allergies. Which, amongst other problems, lead(s) to mouth-breathing (see above).
  • Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Underlying medical conditions can also be the cause of bad breath. If you have bad breath AND, for example, heartburn or acid reflux, it is advisable to contact a doctor.

Fruity-smelling breath is one of the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition which predominantly affects people with Type 1 diabetes. This occurs because people with no to little insulin are unable to metabolise ketone acids, as a result of which they build up to toxic levels in the blood.

Sweet-smelling breath in a person with Type 1 diabetes should trigger prompt medical action. In rare cases, people with Type 2 diabetes can also develop the condition.

People with chronic kidney failure can have breath with an ammonia-like odour, sometimes also described as “urine-like” or “fishy”.
A strong, sweet, musty odour on the breath (fetor hepaticus) can be a sign of liver disease.

Children

Seeing the adults around them suddenly wearing face masks can be distressing for small children. New and unknown things are often a source of fear. In certain situations, it may be necessary for even small children to wear a mask - something which may well be easier said than done.

In the following, we have compiled a number of tips for helping to avoid mask-related toddler tantrums:

  • In a situation where the child needs to wear a mask, the parents should also wear masks so the child does not feel alone.
  • Put on your masks, then look in the mirror and talk about the masks. Keep it light-hearted.
  • Put a mask on one of your child’s favourite toy animals.
  • Decorate the mask so that it is more personalised and fun: Draw pictures on it, write names on it, etc.
  • Show your child pictures of other children wearing masks.
  • Draw a mask on your child’s favourite book character.

Experts advise that when answering questions placed by small children, it is important to provide straightforward answers with simple explanations. Do not offer extra information which may confuse or frighten the child.

Examples include:

Q: Why are people wearing masks?
A: Sometimes people wear masks when they are ill. When they are all better, they stop wearing the masks.
Q: Is the mask a costume?
A: No, sometimes people wear masks when they are ill. The mask just means they are not feeling well.
Q: Can the person still talk?
A: Yes. The mask covers their mouth, but they can still talk. Just like if I put my hand over my mouth, I can still talk.
Q: Are they scary or a “bad” person?
A: No. The mask covers up part of their face, but that doesn’t mean they are scary or bad. They are wearing a mask because they are ill. That’s all. When they are better, they will take the mask off.
Q: Will I get ill?
A: Everybody gets ill sometimes. If you get ill, mummy/daddy will take care of you until you are better. The doctors will help you, too.

Small children often want to copy things which they see other people doing. If your child shows interest in masks, make use of this and indulge in a little “let’s pretend”, allowing your small child to wear a mask in situations where it is not strictly necessary.

If you are able to sew and wish to make a mask for your child, tutorials can be found online, such as here. For parents who do not sew, there are also possibilities, such as here and here.