For the past several months, health care providers and public health officials have been asking Californians to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Wearing a mask is not exactly pleasant for some people, and for others, it can be a bit challenging. Adding to the stress are myths about health problems caused by wearing a mask. Knowing how to deal with these issues and identifying the myths can help ease any concerns.
Here are some of the top complaints about wearing a mask and how to combat the effects:
- Breathing—Wearing a mask will not increase the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe in and make you sick. Research by the American Thoracic Society finds that wearing a face mask does not pose a health risk. “We show that the effects are minimal at most even in people with very severe lung impairment,” Michael Campos, MD, told Science Daily. Experts also say the myth that wearing a mask can cause a severe form of pneumonia is simply not true. If you have trouble breathing with a mask on, try to breathe through your nose and limit the time you talk. Also, try to find a safe place where you can remove the mask and take a few breaths.
- Skin irritations—The new acne dubbed “maskne” is real. Oil, sweat, and saliva swirling around the mouth and nose area where the mask rubs can cause clogged pores. Masks can also cause friction on the skin-damaging the protected barrier. Choosing a cloth mask can help absorb the sweat, oil, and moisture, but be sure to launder it often. Change your skincare slightly by using a mild fragrance-free moisturizer to replenish the skin barrier that is rubbed off by the mask.
- Eye issues—Some people complain of dry eye from wearing a mask, and for good reason. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, wearing a face mask has been linked to ocular irritation and dryness. Irritation of the eye’s ocular surface has also raised concerns about the increased risk of the spread of diseases from eye rubbing. If you wear glasses, the fog can also make it nearly impossible to see. Still, researchers encourage people to wear a mask and urge those who are long-term mask users to use eye protection to prevent any eye issues.
- Claustrophobia—If being worried about contracting COVID-19 isn’t enough to cause anxiety, wearing a mask might do the trick. For some people, wearing a mask can bring up traumatic experiences and abuse from the past. Health experts suggest trying to go through a desensitizing period by practicing wearing a mask for a short period of time and slowly increase the time to wear it longer and longer.
- Oral gum disease—Wearing a mask for an extended period of time can indirectly cause xerostomia or dry mouth. Dry mouth can lead to an increased risk of fungal infections, halitosis, and periodontal disease. But the act of wearing the mask doesn’t cause these problems; rather, it’s from not consuming enough liquids throughout the day because the mask is a barrier. Easy fix: Lift up your mask and take a sip.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only a few people who should not wear a mask. They include:
- Children younger than two years old.
- Anyone who has trouble breathing. For example, someone who depends on an oxygen tank.
- Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
If you need to make an appointment for health, dental, eye, or mental health issues, you can check a professional’s license by visiting the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ search tool at https://search.dca.ca.gov/.