How to Stay Comfortable in a Mask

Going outside can be a bit of a challenge at the moment. We're used to taking extra precautions in the summer: sunscreen, staying hydrated, bringing a hat for the sun and being inside for the hottest part of the day. We usually re-find our rhythm from past summers pretty quickly. But this year is different.

This year we don't leave without a mask. But with heatwaves all over the country, masks can be hard to wear. Of course, we want to be safe. But, how do we balance safety and not sweltering under our masks?

Some have said that the best way to do that is to pick a lightweight mask. The best, safest masks that are readily available and extremely inexpensive are surgical masks. (https://www.glucocil.com/blogs/journal/some-masks-are-worse-than-nothing) They are lightweight and have three layers. Other very lightweight masks may not offer enough protection. For a cotton mask to be beneficial, it has to have at least three layers of material.

When a mask becomes damp, it becomes warm and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the inside of a surgical mask does become damp as it stops you from breathing on other people. That shows it's working but can also make it uncomfortable. We suggest carrying extras. That way, if you need you, you can change it for a new one.

There are steps you should follow when you swap it over. (https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/july/stay-cool-while-wearing-a-mask) Sanitize your hands before removing the mask by the ear straps. Put the mask into a sealable bag or container. Sanitize your hands again, put on your new mask by placing the elastic around your ears and make sure your nose and mouth are covered.   

Whether or not you are a fan of face shields, you may be interested in wearing a hat. If you have been using face shields, you can buy many hats on Amazon, and other sites, with face shields built into them or as attachments. (https://www.amazon.com/s?k=face+shield+hat&crid=2RNHP2VEIFI3H&sprefix=face+sh%2Caps%2C874&ref=nb_sb_noss_1) A hat can keep the sun off your face and act as portable shade, keeping you cool when you are out and about. A shield can also offer you extra protection, especially if you cannot wear a mask because of a medical issue. (https://www.glucocil.com/blogs/journal/face-shields-can-protect-people-who-can-t-wear-masks)

You may consider carrying a small hand fan or a little battery-powered fan in addition to a hat. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53688259) They aren't something most of us carry — outside of maybe theme parks where they are always for sale. But this year, you might appreciate a portable breeze to help cool yourself off more than you usually would.

Swapping out heavy sunscreen for a lighter feeling brand can also be a big help. Skip makeup if possible. Moisturizer can help you avoid a rash under the mask, but too much can make you feel uncomfortable. Dermatologists have suggested that anyone who uses anti-aging creams uses them at night and then washes their face in the morning. They can cause irritation under a warm mask. (https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/wearing-face-masks-summer.html)

Staying inside when it's sweltering is important even when there isn't a pandemic and a need for masks. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are serious dangers during regular summers. Plan to be outside during the cooler part of the day. That way, your mask won't be glued to your face at 2:30 in the afternoon when the sun is glaring down. (https://www.mother.ly/life/how-to-stay-cool-in-a-mask) Additionally, stay hydrated. Keeping your body cool makes it easier to breathe, which lessens how uncomfortable your mask may feel later. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53688259)

One final thought, misting your face may feel great in the moment, but it can make you more uncomfortable in the long run and make your mask harder to breathe through and less effective. And, while making your mask cold and wet may sound refreshing, it won't be. It will warm up fast and leave you panting for air.

"Don't try to make your face feel cooler by dousing the mask in water," said Dr. Matthew Levy of Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine. "Getting face coverings wet can compromise their filtration capabilities." (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/covid-19-story-tip-the-importance-of-staying-cool-while-wearing-a-mask-outside-in-the-summer-heat)
August 13, 2020
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