5 tips for staying comfortable while wearing masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of face masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, which primarily travels from person to person through respiratory droplets. This includes those who have been vaccinated, as there’s a chance you may still spread the virus to those who have not been vaccinated, without getting sick yourself.

older man and young boy wearing masks and bumping elbows

While experts recommend wearing a covering for your mouth and nose, there are efforts you can do to help make it a bit more comfortable. Consider these tips from Dr. Robert Kantor, UnitedHealthcare chief medical officer of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, on how to help stay safe with your face mask:

  1. Use breathable material
    Find a tightly woven mask made of lightweight cloth materials like cotton, silk or mixed polyester. These materials may help you breathe more comfortably while still creating a necessary barrier.

    If you don’t want to go out and buy a face mask, consider getting creative with bandanas, old T-shirts or handkerchiefs. Make sure whatever you choose covers both your nose and mouth.
  2. Make sure it fits
    Your mask should fit pretty snug, but it shouldn’t be too tight. Making sure your mask fits correctly may be important to help make it more breathable. Consider looking for one with adjustable straps. 
  3. Keep it clean
    Wash your mask after every use, especially if it becomes wet from sweating. If you have a mask made of cloth, you can throw it in with your regular laundry cycle. Avoid touching the front of the mask and wash your hands promptly after each use.  
  4. Don’t forget your skin
    Take care of your skin too, the moisture build-up from the effects of wearing your mask for long periods may cause irritation or even acne. Consider skipping makeup under the mask to avoid further clogging your pores and rinse your face after removing it. 
  5. Understand who should not wear a mask
    Those who have difficulties breathing should not wear a face mask, especially as prolonged wear may exacerbate those issues. Children younger than 2 should also refrain from wearing a mask, as it may be a choking hazard. Additionally, anyone who may be unable to remove a mask without assistance should avoid them.  

Remember, face masks are recommended in combination with frequent hand washing and social distancing measures. There is scientific evidence that shows masking helps to block respiratory droplets from others, as well as helping to reduce inhalation of these droplets. One example of the effectiveness of masks and physical distancing? The unusually low number of flu cases being reported this year.  

For more on how to help protect yourself and others, visit the CDC website.