Mask Up, Midwestern: Tips for Mask Wear

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July 28, 2020 | Midwestern University

With mask usage becoming a requirement in many locations due to COVID-19, including on campus at Midwestern University, Dr. Michelle Mifflin, Clinical Associate Professor at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, offers some tips on how to get accustomed to wearing them from a healthcare professional's perspective.

  • It’s not a lack of oxygen, it’s claustrophobia. Masks are designed to filter and protect against particulates, while still allowing free breathing. If you feel like your breathing is obstructed, the sensation is likely due more to claustrophobia. Dr. Mifflin: “Taking deliberate, long, slow, deep breaths can help to ease this feeling.  The deep breaths create a calming effect, as well as increasing oxygen intake.  Breathing through your nose is best, but you can open your mouth to breathe through your nose and mouth at the same time if you feel you need to.  As you get better at this, you may be able to exercise in your mask – I do!”
  • Avoid glasses fogging with some quick hacks. Some people dislike masks because redirected exhalation can fog glasses. This is actually something you can – and should – fix on your mask. Dr. Mifflin: “Most important is to form the mask tightly around your nose.  If your mask doesn't have a form, you can add one easily by cutting a small hole near the top edge and sliding a pipe cleaner into the space. Then just tack that hole closed!  Next, make sure your glasses are sitting firmly and securely on your face.  If the bottom edge of your glasses touches the mask on your cheeks, even better!  This can help seal the top of the mask to prevent escaping air. Finally, focus on letting your breath out in a long, slow, controlled fashion.  This decreases any fogging from escaping air.” Washing glasses lenses with common dish soap can also help glasses from fogging easily.
  • Your mask SHOULD suck up against your face. This means that your mask is working as designed. It doesn’t mean you’re getting less oxygen. Dr. Mifflin: “Just focus on taking those deliberate, long, slow, deep breaths.  Try breathing in through your nose and mouth at the same time – slowly – to increase the air intake.”
  • Mask uncomfortable? Try another style. There are many different types of face coverings – over the ear, tied at the neck and head, even balaclava-style “head socks.” Choose a mask style that is comfortable (and even stylish!) that still provides full coverage of your nose and mouth. You can also alter existing masks by lengthening elastic bands with hair scrunchies or ties, or using a back-of-the-neck strap extenders.
  • Know why you are wearing a mask. When you wear a mask, you are reducing the danger that you might transmit the COVID virus to others asymptomatically. More than self-protection, masks help you protect others. Dr. Mifflin: “Remember, I wear my mask to protect you.  You wear your mask to protect me.  We're all in this together!”