A face mask, sometimes called a nasal mask, is any plastic or artificial material designed to be worn to cover the nose and mouth. It is intended to restrict and keep out air from the lungs and throat, thus causing breathing difficulties. Although some masks can be heavy, most are light enough that they can be worn comfortably with little or no assistance. The term “face mask” conjures up images of medieval torture practices involving the face masking of a person being smothered with oil or wax. Though such practices may have been commonplace for hundreds of years, modern face masks are far more comfortable and often provide better results than their medieval forebears.
A face mask is typically a plastic or artificial material designed to cover the nose and mouth, typically made of synthetic cloth. It may include one-piece designs or be part of a facial irrigation system (i.e. nose drip kit). When air is blocked from the lungs, the result is to increase the airflow through the nose, thereby increasing the amount of exhalation, which in turn results in increased respiratory rate and therefore decreasing carbon dioxide levels. When physical distancing is impossibly possible and when other than a full face mask is not readily available, cloth or thin elastic facemasks may be worn.
The use of a face mask dates back to ancient times. Ancient Egyptian mummies have been found with pieces of cloth still attached to the nose. While cloth masks might not exactly be considered “torture tools”, the methods by which they are used are similar to the types of practices that are still used today. Face masks, mostly of cloth and/or paper, have also been found as far back as the early Roman Empire. Their exact origin is unknown, but it is likely that these ancient peoples were accustomed to using them as a way to reduce or eliminate foul odors from the nose, throat, or mouth.
Modern technology has afforded the modern face mask an almost cosmetic boost, with many new varieties available. One such innovation is the use of a laser face mask, which has a number of light emitting diodes (LED’s) built into the plastic or metal face mask, which focus and spread light for the purposes of eliminating or minimizing offensive odors. These diodes are usually located about one to two inches behind the eyes in a shape that is different from the typical “halo” design seen on most other face masks. A laser face mask may also contain tiny cameras or sensors that are programmed to respond to offensive odors. In this manner, the wearer’s own body odor may be reduced or eliminated completely. These types of face masks may also include air purification systems to remove particles of dust and other impurities from the air.
Another variety of face mask that is frequently worn is one that fits over the nose. These items fit tightly over the nose, blocking out the wearer’s breathing air, but leaving the upper airway open for some breathing capacity. The nasal splints, which are most often colored to match the rest of the wearer’s uniform, are made with a soft, comfortable fabric and generally come in black, navy blue, or gray. Some varieties even feature chinstrap attachments, allowing the wearer to wear the splints in their regular clothes. Sometimes these nasal splints are worn with disposable nose clips, allowing the wearer to easily change their nose clips in order takers.
A much more advanced variation of the face mask used today is a full-face mask or “covid-mask”. These items feature a chin cup that fits very snugly over the nose, blocking out all air from the nose but also covering the lips, chin, and mouth. In some cases, the mask may also have a chin cup flap, allowing air to flow from the top of the head through the mask and out again. In some instances, a “covid-mask” may not have any movable parts at all, such as those used during the surgery for plastic surgeries. This type of face mask has been particularly effective in patients who suffer from squinting or drooling, as its design prevents air from entering and going through the nose while still providing a seal against the cheeks and forehead.