Face masks are becoming and increasingly important part of our everyday attire. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport across the UK as well as in shops in both England and Scotland. (In Wales and Northern Ireland they are recommended).
This means that many of us will be wearing a face mask on a regular basis for the foreseeable future.
If you are unsure what type of mask you should wear or how to use a face mask correctly you should check out our article ” Everything you need to know about face masks and gloves“.
While wearing a mask can be a bit uncomfortable or frustrating, especially if you’re not used to it. People who wear glasses, those anxious about being able to breathe properly, or who wear masks for extended periods of time face particular challenges.
Health workers, who have long used face masks as part of their everyday work, have developed a number of useful tricks for making wearing a face mask more comfortable.
How to stop glasses fogging up
For people with glasses, wearing a mask can lead to their lenses fogging or steaming up, reducing their vision. As you breathe out, your warm breath shoots upwards through the top of the mask. When it hits the colder lens, it cools down, forming condensation, or fogging.
Having to keep on taking off your glasses to wipe them clear, and putting them back on again, is an infection risk. So preventing or minimising fogging is the key. Here are some tips:
1. Soap and water — wash your glasses with soap and water (such as regular washing up liquid), then allow them to dry in the air or dry them with a microfibre cloth. This type of cloth typically comes free with each pair of glasses or you can buy one online or from an opticians. Don’t use a tissue however as it may leave lint, which attracts moisture to the lenses. Soap reduces surface tension, preventing fog from sticking to the lenses.
2. Shaving foam — apply a thin layer of shaving cream to the inside of your glasses, then gently wipe it off. The residual shaving cream will protect the lenses from misting up.
3. De-misting spray — you can use a commercial de-misting spray that dries clear. But make sure this is compatible with your lens type or existing coatings on your lens. You can buy demisting spray online or from your optometrist.
4. Close the gap on surgical masks — mould the nose bridge at the top of your surgical mask to your face to reduce the gap that allows warm moist air up to the glasses.
5. Tape — some health professionals apply a strip of tape that’s specially designed for use on skin to the top edge of the mask to close the gap. You can buy a roll online or at the pharmacy.
Sadly, there is no magic trick, such as putting the mask or glasses on first that will stop fogging. Improving the fit around the curve of the nose and cheeks is the best approach.
Putting on a mask may make you feel anxious or you may find it hard to breathe normally, especially if you’re new to wearing a mask.
Despite what you may have heard elsewhere there is no evidence a face mask will cause either a drop in blood oxygen or an increase in blood carbon dioxide levels for normal everyday activities.
If you do feel anxious about wearing a mask, here are some tips:
1. Practise at home — take a few minutes before leaving the house to get used to the feel of wearing a mask. Slow your breathing, breathe gently, with a slower, longer inhale and exhale while focusing on the fact that air is getting to your lungs, and safely out again.
2. Try another mask — if you still feel that breathing is difficult, try a different mask; one with a different design may be more comfortable.
How to stop ears chaffing
If you have been wearing a face mask for long period, you may notice discomfort around the ears as the ear loops can chafe the skin. Here’s what you can do:
1. Wear a headband or cap with buttons — one solution is to wear a headband or a cap with two buttons sewn onto it. Sew the buttons so they sit behind the ears. Rather than looping the mask around your ears, loop it around the buttons instead. This takes the pressure off the skin, increases comfort and helps you keep the mask on longer.
2. Use a mask with ties – another great way to prevent ear irritation is avoiding elastic altogether. It’s possible to find mask designs with ties rather than elastic.
It’s worth getting this right
It may take a few attempts to get used to wearing a mask. But with a bit of trial and error, your glasses should remain fog-free, your ears comfortable and any anxiety about wearing a mask should reduce.
Wearing a mask in public is important to help keep ourselves and the community safe, alongside social distancing and hand hygiene.
Written by Craig Lockwood and Zoe Jordan of University of Adelaide. This article is republished from The Conversation.