Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged all Americans to cover their faces while out in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we’re all getting comfortable with wearing our face masks on the daily.
There’s only one problem: Face masks aren’t always comfortable. Just ask the nurses and health care workers who’ve been wearing them for years. Face masks can fog up glasses (we’ve got solutions for that), make it difficult to breathe and even cause painful friction behind our ears.
A study published in April in the journal Wound Management & Prevention concluded that extensive face mask use ― typically by health care workers who wear masks for long periods of time ― can cause friction lesions. Not only are these painful, but the study said that “loss of facial skin integrity creates a portal for penetration of pathogens, including the coronavirus itself, as well as other hospital-acquired bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Thus, skin damage can facilitate penetration of coronavirus and other pathogens into the blood circulation directly.”
One area that’s particularly vulnerable to friction is behind the ears, especially when wearing face masks with straps that attach behind the ears. Those who don’t work in the medical profession won’t likely wear face masks long enough to experience friction lesions, but wearing masks for even short periods of time can still cause discomfort.
Since wearing a mask is a key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to find a solution for that discomfort. Luckily, there are plenty out there.
One alternative is to switch to a tie-back type of mask, like this one, which won’t pull at the backs of your ears:
But clever Etsy makers offer several other creative solutions that you can purchase affordably. They sell headbands, caps and strap extensions made with buttons that are placed just behind your ears ― you simply slide your face mask’s elastic ear straps over the buttons, alleviating all the pressure that normally would be applied behind your ears.
Additionally, there are S-hooks and plastic clips that you can place at the back of your head and hook your straps onto. There’s even one with a hole for your ponytail.
Check out some of our picks below. And keep wearing your masks responsibly.
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Experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The information in this story is what was known or available as of press time, but it’s possible guidance around COVID-19 could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.