Face Masks and Ear Psoriasis
In the last two days, I have learned a lot about face masks. From trying to sleep in mine to watching other people's disastrous efforts as I’m wheeled around the hospital.
What you need to know about face masks if you have ear psoriasis
I have learned that face masks SUCK if you have ear psoriasis and you have to wear them for a long time. The band around your ears to keep them on feels ok initially. But after a while, if your mask fits correctly, they can pull on your ear and therefore on your psoriasis.
Strategies for surviving face masks with ear psoriasis
- Shop around. There are face masks that have straps that tie around the back of the head. Measure your head before you buy them online. Masks that slip create unwanted friction and friction leads to soreness.
- Buy plastic adapters. You can get a plastic strip that goes around the back of your head and lifts the straps away from the back of the ear so you don't get that friction.
- Keep moisturizing. I know this tip is dull, but you need to follow your usual ear psoriasis care and use topicals as prescribed if the skin is raw.
- If things are really bad, you can buy balaclava style face masks. Just be aware that the science shows you need 2-3 layers of fabric to protect from coughs and sneezes - so make sure you're buying something custom made so you can add a filter. Just don't wear this if you're going to the bank!
Other things you need to consider for ear psoriasis
Badly fitting face masks don't work well
After 12 hours, I realized there were several sections of my face mask which were not snug- so air could freely move in and out at the sides (thank you mega sneeze).
The main problem here was that I was wearing a disposable surgical mask with elastic straps. These are a generic fit. My pinhead is pretty small. I took my mask and tied knots in both ear loops to make them tighter. Lo and behold, 20 seconds later I have an almost gap proof mask.
I must confess - now it fits, but it’s more annoying for my psoriasis. Don’t fall into the mistake of wearing an ill-fitting mask because it’s comfier (although an ill-fitting mask is better than no mask at all).
Not all masks are created equal
There are lots of home-made masks for sale now. Some are beautiful.
But not all masks are made equal. Some masks have a single layer of cotton, and some have three layers with space for a filter. So is it worth shopping around?
Experiments looking at fabric masks showed that following a sneeze, wearing just a single layer of cloth reduced transmission of aerosolized droplets to a distance of less than 30cm. So this is a great start.
However, when the face mask had two layers of fabric, the dispersal of infectious droplets was reduced to less than 10cm. Equivalent to the surgical cloth masks used in the study.1
So using a very thin cotton scarf is better than nothing, but really, the more layers the better.
Wearing a cloth mask does not make you invincible
The one person I saw in the hospital wearing a pre-purchased mask walked around as if he was invincible. Him in his casual clothes, me in gowns in a wheelchair visibly ill. He walked past me so close that I felt his jacket brush my arm. There was no one else on the walkway. And hospital walkways are WIDE. I could have had COVID-19. He didn’t care. He could have given me COVID-19, I doubt that crossed his mind.
Do you know how much the risk would have been reduced if he had been 1m away? According to a study published in The Lancet (a geeky medical publication) - my risk would have been reduced by a whopping 82%.2
Plus they found that the relative protection DOUBLED with every 1m added to the distance (up to 3m - they didn't test any further).2 So when you can, step away. For your safety and for theirs. Even if you're wearing a mask.
So what do you need to look out for when shopping for a mask with psoriasis?
- Make sure you measure your face when shopping to make sure the mask you buy is a good fit. A surprising number of sites have no measurements so give those a wide berth. A poor fit reduces the effectiveness of a mask.3
- Check that the materials won't irritate your psoriasis. Instead of tight elastic ear loops, can you replace them with silk? Or even better silk-covered elastic.
- See if you can get a mask that wraps around the back of your head. Just make sure you're not relying on one layer of fabric. Ideally, you have three layers, with the outer layer being water-resistant and the inner layer being absorbent.4 Damp faces are not fun.
- Buy multiple masks so you can change them often. Masks should be changed regularly, and especially if you have touched the mask front itself. Pre-symptomatic or mildly symptomatic people can accidentally spread the infection by touching their contaminated mask and then touching other surfaces.3 Masks should be removed using the ear elastic and never by touching the front.
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