Researchers at the University of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England are warning about skin damage resulting from wearing face masks, and offering remedies, amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Karen Ousey, director at the Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention at the University of Huddersfield, led a study that included research into the pressure damage that can be caused by a wide range of medical devices, including face masks. The findings and recommendations were published online ahead of print in the Journal of Wound Care (Feb. 18, 2020).
Frontline healthcare workers, as well as members of the general public, are spending many hours a day wearing face masks as a preventive measure against Covid-19.
While the masks provide invaluable protection, they can also be the cause of significant skin damage through sweating and the rubbing of the masks against the nose, according to the study’s authors.
“The wearers are sweating underneath the masks and this causes friction, leading to pressure damage on the nose and cheeks,” said Dr. Ousey in a press release. “There can be tears to the skin as a result and these can lead to potential infection."
The study’s authors note that because the masks can quickly become ineffective, users of medical face masks are limited in what they can use on their skin underneath the masks.
“The masks the healthcare professionals are wearing have to be fitted to the face—so if healthcare professionals add dressings to the skin under the mask after being fitted there is a chance the mask will no longer fit correctly,” continued Dr. Ousey.
Dr. Ousey recommends that people wearing the masks keep their skin clean, well-hydrated and moisturized. She adds that barrier creams should be applied at least half an hour before masks are worn.
“We are suggesting that pressure from the mask is relieved every two hours,” Dr. Ousey said. “So you come away from the patient, relieve the pressure in a safe place and clean the skin again.”
The researchers advise that members of the general public—such as shop workers—who are wearing face masks to keep their skin clean, dry and free of sweat.
“If they do feel their masks rubbing, take them off as soon as they safely can,” Dr. Ousey concluded.