A face mask, also called a mucus face mask, is a thick layer of mucus, most often cotton, worn to the face, usually over the nose and mouth. Mucus is an emulsion that helps to ward off infection and other irritants. However, if physical distancing is impossible and when even more potent masks aren’t readily available, cloth face masks can be a better solution. They’re easy to use, can be washed and dried, and don’t have to be repositioned quite as often as many other kinds of masks. For allergies or sensitive skin, however, it’s a good idea to choose one of the more potent varieties. Here are some tips to help you find a great face mask that will suit your needs.
First, think about what you need to protect. A nasal mask will help you reduce allergens that get into the air you breathe and can prevent rhinitis from occurring. When used properly, they can completely cover your nose and mouth, allowing you to breathe easier and reducing irritation. Some people even use exhalation valves to help keep them from breathing in allergens while they sleep. However, this isn’t a foolproof method, and face masks that offer protection from allergens may not necessarily provide full protection against irritants.
If your problem is primarily social distancing, you may be better off wearing a nasal or exhalation valve. These devices are typically worn in public settings, but can also be worn at home when you can’t make it to the bathroom in time for the real reason you want to use it (like in a social distancing situation). However, people with allergies or asthma might find that they benefit most from using a natural face mask like cotton air wearers. The material keeps allergens out while providing a barrier to the wearer’s nose and mouth.
Allergic reactions can stem from inhalation of airborne irritants or vapors. Inhalation through your nose leads to bronchoconstriction, which decreases the effectiveness of protective mucus that covers your lungs. Nasal strips, as well as adhesive backed nasal drops, can help decrease this reaction by reducing the swelling of your airways and making it easier for you to breathe. Inhalation is the only way to pass air through the tubes that connect your lungs to the back of your mouth, so using a nasal or adhesive backed device that allows you to blow your nose or use a breathing tube is more appropriate than trying to wear a traditional face mask. But if you have an extreme reaction to airborne allergens and/or irritants, or you are suffering from a respiratory disease like asthma, a face mask might prove useful during outbreaks.
Two types of face coverings have different mechanisms for containing allergens: Plastic inserts that plug into the nostrils and fabric-made air barriers that go between the face mask and the wearer’s mouth. Both work well to prevent irritants from entering the nasal passages. The plastic insert has two holes that open up to expose airway ports while the fabric-made barrier has one large hole and two smaller ones that close with Velcro or other fastening mechanisms. Air barrier technology reduces allergens’ entry through small openings in the barrier. However, both fabrics prevent dust particles and other irritants from entering through the nose, throat, mouth, and linings.
The nose clip is another method for keeping you from breathing in dust and other pollutants. A nose clip is a thin piece of plastic or metal that is worn inside your nose. It clips onto the skin and leaves no visible mark on the surface of the skin. It is helpful in keeping the wearer’s hair out of his or her face as it helps keep the hair away from the nose, which may contain allergens. Another type of face mask that doesn’t require a prescription or over-the-counter medicine to buy and wear is the nasal strip, which have small holes on its perimeter to allow airflow through while keeping out dust mites, pollen, and bacteria. A few people do complain that the plastic sometimes digs into the skin and irritates the skin, but these issues are usually resolved by taking the mask off occasionally and washing the dirt and grime off.