Helpful strategies to reduce discomfort when masking up
Even though the number of active COVID-19 cases in Manitoba remains low compared to the rest of the country, we need to continue to act like we could be infected at the grocery store, on public transit or in social or work settings where we can’t maintain a two-metre distance. In addition to social distancing and practising hand hygiene, masking up is something we can do to protect each other. Masking up is also a good habit to get into because masks are mandatory in many centres now, including Toronto.
If you’re new to wearing masks, you may find your face feels hot and clammy and the fabric or strings irritate your skin. There are solutions. As a health professional who has worn masks for years, I can honestly say that you will adjust to wearing a mask. You may find that you even come to enjoy the sense of comfort you get from knowing that we’re wearing masks for each other to prevent transmission.
For some Manitobans, such as hair stylists, servers in restaurants, bank tellers and cashiers at grocery and drug stores who work with the public, masking up may be mandatory. Many salons insist stylists and clients wear masks. The same goes for servers at large chain restaurants, trainers at gyms and baristas at Starbucks.
The Government of Canada has set out some criteria for non-medical masks. Masks should allow for easy breathing; fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops; maintain shape after washing and drying; be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen); and be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping.
I would add that in a hot, humid Manitoba summer, investing in a copper-infused mask such as the one made by enVy or a homemade or store-bought mask made from cotton will help you to stay cooler and more comfortable. I see people walking around with their nose exposed or the mask as low as their chin, which is not protecting anyone. Invest in masks that fits well and feels comfortable. You’ll be less tempted to pull it down.
I am a huge fan of the enVy mask because they have 100 percent copper coverage on all the natural fabric layers and surfaces of the mask. It is a non-medical mask and it is not appropriate for those who are mandated to wear N95 masks, but as a cloth mask it has the added perks of being breathable and anti-microbial. The ear loops are soft and non-irritating. Not all copper-infused masks are created equal. Look for masks with 100 percent copper coverage. There are many knockoffs out there, so do your homework.
If you find that the ear loops irritate your skin, try fastening the mask at different angles using a headband or a hat with buttons and give your ears a break. Some people prefer masks with strings so they find the comfortable sweet spots.
In my last blog, I discussed mask and skincare. Moisturizing is essential. So is making sure you never touch the part of the mask that touches your face with your hands. When your mask gets soiled or moist, wash it and let it completely dry before you use it again.
As always, I’m here to answer your questions.