As a health care professional, I have triple-layer disposable masks for when I see patients, and re-usable cloth masks with filters for trips to the grocery store, post office, outdoor exercise and other short errands. But as the months have worn on, with cases increasing daily, masks will continue to be an indispensable accessory, so let’s take a look at what’s happening to them.
But first, you know wearing a mask in public is the right thing to do now and for our near future, so THANK YOU for doing your share! This is what medical professionals are asking us to do keep ourselves, our families, our communities, and our essential workers safe. I hope you’ve found masks that are either functional and comfortable and/or able to express your individuality in a way that makes this “ask” easier to comply
Here’s how to up your mask safety game:
- Reusable masks need to be washed regularly. Why? to keep you safe and to keep your mask clean. Depending on how long you are out and exposed to other people will determine how frequently you need to wash your mask. If you have a stash of several re-usable masks, you can rotate them. Remember “day of the week” underwear? Like that! Also, your breath and perspiration and lip balm or make up can dirty the inside of the mask. Those contaminants can be detrimental to your skin Do you wear your sweaty t-shirt repeatedly? No? Why not? Because it’s gross! Make sure your masks are clean.
- Laundry care for re-usable masks: Your re-usable mask may have elastic for the ears or head, and some of them have some Lycra or other stretchy material to help with fit. If you put these in the dryer, the stretchy bits become brittle and lose their functionality. So to keep the stretchy bits functioning at their best, hang these up to air-dry. If you wear a bra, bicycle shorts, or anything with a little stretch, then you know NEVER to put it in the dryer for the same reason. This might be new news to some men, unless these men have been coached on laundry how-to.
- If you are going to be exposed to a lot of people (but hopefully 6 feet apart) then your mask may be exposed to more potentially harmful pathogens. So your mask on heavy-exposure days should either be discarded that night or put in the laundry that night.
- Many essential oils have anti-viral properties and can be added safely to the inside of your mask for extra protection. Eucalyptus globulus or radiatore (gentler, better for children) is anti-viral and great for lung health. Tea Tree is broad spectrum anti-viral, as well as anti-biotic and anti-fungal (that’s why it’s in so many products). Less common but also effective for this year’s virus is Niaouli, Clove, Thyme, Frankincense and Myrtle. Lemon is also great, but can irritate the skin. Since you’ll be inhaling these fragrances, choose ones from this list that are pleasant to you. Make sure they are organic whenever possible. You only need 1 or 2 drops because the mask brings the fragrance right up to your nose, and it will be intense. (You still need to observe hand-washing, physical distancing, and all the other precautions for your particular situation.)
- Wash your face at the end of every day. Dirt, sweat, and accumulated grime from mask-wearing can irritate or dull the skin. In acupuncture theory, the skin and lungs are related. The skin is a barrier, so by keeping it clean you keep it healthy and strong enough to withstand “insults” by bacteria, viruses and germs. Maintain your normal skin routines (including periodic exfoliation and/or moisturizing), no matter that you aren’t going out as much and your face is hidden by a (clean) mask. This goes for men and women.
Does someone you know still need convincing of why masks are important and how they work? Researchers at Texas A&M (and many other researchers, too) have concluded that “wearing a face mask in public is the most effective means to prevent inter-human transmission.” And as the pandemic has worn on (and on), we have a more nuanced understanding of what we were/are dealing with. This helpful article from UCSF will help you see the value of wearing a mask!
We’re all learning as we go, so if you have any tips to share, please let me know by commenting. Thank you, and please stay safe.