Blog

NAVIGATING THE NEW NORMAL: A GUIDE TO WEARING FACE MASKS

Mya Care Blogger 08 Jan 2024
NAVIGATING THE NEW NORMAL: A GUIDE TO WEARING FACE MASKS

Millions have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has altered our way of life and social interactions. One of the most common and effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus has been the use of face masks. However, as the pandemic situation improves in some regions, thanks to the availability of vaccines and treatments, many people are wondering whether they still need to wear masks in the post-COVID era. Moreover, as new variants of the virus emerge and pose new challenges, some countries have reintroduced mask mandates or recommendations, sparking debates and controversies.

In this article, we will analyze the implications of wearing face masks for personal and public health moving forward into the post-COVID era, as well as the social and psychological aspects of this practice.

Should I Still Wear a Mask? Why Mask Wearing is Still Important

The purpose of face masks is to form a barrier that prevents the transmission of respiratory droplets that may contain infectious agents, such as the virus that causes COVID-19. You can shield yourself from breathing in these droplets by using a mask and also protect others if you are infected. This is especially important because many people who have COVID-19 do not show any symptoms yet can transmit the virus to others. Wearing a mask can also lower the risk of environmental contamination and subsequent infection.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), wearing a mask is one of the key tools to slow the spread of COVID-19[1], along with getting vaccinated, washing hands, and maintaining physical distance. The WHO recommends wearing a mask in specific situations, such as when you are in a crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated space or when you have or suspect you have COVID-19. The WHO further cautions that, depending on a risk assessment, a mask may be recommended in other situations considering the local epidemiological trends, the level of vaccination coverage and immunity in the community, and the setting you find yourself in.

Wearing a mask is still important in the post-COVID era for several reasons. Here are some of the main benefits of wearing a mask:

First, the pandemic is not over yet, and there are still many regions in the world where the virus is circulating and causing outbreaks. Even if you are fully vaccinated, you may still get infected or transmit the virus to others, especially if you encounter a new variant that can evade the immune response. You can also spread the virus without having symptoms or pick it up from those who do not show any symptoms. Therefore, wearing a mask can help reduce the chances of getting sick or spreading the virus to others, especially in high-risk settings or populations.[2]

Second, wearing a mask can also protect you from other respiratory viruses that may circulate in the post-COVID era, such as influenza, RSV, and the common cold. These viruses can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes lead to complications and death, especially in vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and people with chronic conditions. You can lessen your exposure to these infections by wearing a mask and also prevent them from spreading. In fact, some studies have shown that during the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask has significantly reduced the occurrence of influenza and other respiratory diseases.[3]

Third, wearing a mask can also have positive effects on your health and well-being beyond preventing infections. Wearing a mask can help you avoid allergens, pollutants, and irritants that may trigger respiratory problems, such as asthma or allergies.

The Future of Face Masks

While mask-wearing is still important, everyone is wondering, ‘When can we stop wearing masks?’ Will wearing a mask become a permanent feature of our lives, or will it go away like a secondary pandemic?

Wearing a mask may become more or less necessary and common in the post-COVID era, depending on new outbreaks and the effectiveness of current treatments. There is also the possibility of other respiratory infections and pandemics that have yet to emerge which may demand masking up. As one study reports, the probability of extreme epidemics might increase up to threefold in the decades to come.[4]

Some experts predict that mask-wearing will become a seasonal or situational practice, similar to how some people already wear masks during flu season or in polluted areas. Others suggest that mask-wearing will become a permanent or long-term habit as part of a new normal of hygiene, infection prevention and overall health.

When to Wear a Mask

Wearing a mask is still important for preventing the spread of respiratory infections and masks ought to be worn when one is not well (if staying at home or quarantine is not possible) or living with ill individuals who might pass it on. Even though many restrictions have been lifted, they have returned in some regions and may return at any time. Therefore, it is important to keep a clean mask with you when leaving the house.

There are other situations where one should still wear a mask:

  • If you start to feel borderline ill or when mild symptoms appear, such as a cough, sniffles, or a temperature. You might want to remain vigilant of this when you suspect your immune function is low due to stress or some other issue.
  • It is a good idea to wear masks in hospitals. Masking in healthcare settings is vital to reduce the chances of acquiring an infection from patients and to prevent infections from leaving the facility.[5]
  • When traveling in close quarters with other people.
  • When entering crowded public buildings that do not have adequate ventilation or sanitation measures in place.
  • Anytime mask mandates are returning in response to an infectious challenge. Mask mandates may return at any time, and it is important to be prepared.

Some studies are suggesting now that people may want to wear masks at home, especially if living with an ill family member. If anyone starts to show mild symptoms of illness or is at an increased risk of one, wearing masks may reduce the risk of infection by as much as 79%.[6]

How To Deal with The Challenges of Wearing Face Masks

Despite the benefits of wearing face masks, there are obvious drawbacks, and most people are still not comfortable with masking up. While we want to lower the spread of infections, it is not in the spirit of wearing masks to stress about it and possibly increase one’s chances of succumbing to an infection!

If you respond to wearing a mask in any of the following ways, understand that you are not alone and that there are things you can do to improve your mask-wearing experience:

  • Physical discomfort: Wearing a mask can cause skin irritation, acne, headaches, difficulty breathing, and fogging of glasses. These physical signals let us know just how unnatural wearing a mask is for our health and well-being. Studies have shown that in some regions, this is the number one barrier to wearing a facemask, affecting up to 80-90% of those who resist masking.[7]
  • Psychological distress: Prolonged mask-wearing can affect your mood, emotions, and mental health, especially when physical symptoms start to become intolerable and create mounting pressure. Some people may feel anxious, depressed, isolated, or stigmatized by wearing a mask. Others may experience a loss of identity, self-expression, or social connection, particularly as mask-wearing does away with our ability to make use of facial expressions. People may also be put off by mask-wearing due to the over-sensationalism of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of perceived effectiveness.[8]
  • Social conflict: Wearing a mask can also create social tension and conflict, either due to the way it is enforced or in areas where it is not supported. Some people may face discrimination or even harassment for wearing or not wearing a mask. Others may feel judged, pressured, or coerced by others to conform to their mask preferences. On the other hand,wearing a mask might also be perceived as a sign that you are not well and struggling with a respiratory infection, which can add to the tension. Some people may feel reluctant to wear a mask because they fear losing their social appeal or identity.

There are several ways in which one can cope with these challenges. To deal with these challenges, it is important to adopt a positive and proactive attitude towards wearing face masks.

Here are some tips to help you cope with the difficulties and enjoy the benefits of wearing face masks:

  • Educate yourself and consider the global benefits of masking. While parts of the pandemic may have been overly dramatized, especially due to societal pressures and the way lockdown affected some people psychologically, sars-cov-2 is still a highly problematic infection that can lead to chronic infections, chronic disease (long-term COVID) and greatly increases the risk of death in vulnerable individuals. This is precisely why the prevention measures, which have been proven as effective, are required.
  • Choose a mask that suits your needs and preferences. To avoid physical discomfort, choose a mask that fits well, is comfortable, and is made of breathable materials. It is also important to change or wash your mask regularly and to take breaks from wearing it when possible.
  • Incorporate Masks into Your Wardrobe. One can make mask-wearing more attractive, use it as a mode of self-expression, and incorporate it into one’s sense of identity. Choose a mask that reflects your personality, style, and values by picking a color, pattern, or design that you like. You may also need different masks for different occasions, such as for formal events, job interviews, or casual settings. Aside from colors and textures, masks are customizable with accessories such as pins, stickers, or charms. Some people might appreciate opting for a mask that has a printed smile on it as well to avoid losing a vital facial expression.
  • Take care of your mask and your face. You should wash your reusable mask regularly, either by hand or in a machine, using soap and water or detergent. It is also important to wash your face before and after wearing a mask, using a gentle cleanser and moisturizer. Avoid wearing makeup or skincare products under your mask that may clog your pores or irritate your skin. Topical creams or medications can be used to treat any skin problems that may arise from wearing a mask, such as acne, rashes, or dryness.
  • Take breaks from wearing your mask. You can and should remove your mask whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so. You should store your mask in a clean and dry place, such as a paper bag or a ziplock bag, and avoid touching the front or inside of your mask.

When Not To Wear A Mask

While wearing a mask can have many benefits, there are also some situations when wearing a mask is not recommended or required. These include the following situations:

  • You are alone or with people from your household in a private setting, such as your home or car.
  • You are outdoors and can maintain a safe distance from others, such as in a park or on a hike.
  • You are eating or drinking in a public place, such as a restaurant or cafe.
  • You are doing physical activity that makes it hard to breathe, such as running or swimming.
  • You have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, such as asthma or a facial injury.
  • A child under the age of 2, or a person who cannot remove the mask without assistance.
  • You should also take off your mask if you feel unwell, dizzy, or suffocated and seek medical attention if necessary.

In these situations, wearing a mask may not be necessary or beneficial and may even be harmful or dangerous. However, you should always follow the local guidelines and regulations regarding wearing masks and respect the rules and policies of the places you visit. Be prepared to wear a mask if the situation changes or if you are asked to do so by others. Wearing a mask is not a substitute for other preventive measures, such as getting vaccinated, washing hands, and keeping physical distance. By combining these strategies, you can reduce your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory infections and help end the pandemic.

Conclusion

Wearing a mask is still a simple and effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Masking up can protect you and others from getting sick and can also help reduce the burden on the healthcare system and the economy. Wearing a mask when required is still an important preventive measure in the post-covid era. One can work creatively around these challenges by choosing comfortable masks that reflect our identities, wearing only when necessary and taking breaks when required, as well as adopting a positive attitude to masking up. By doing so, everyone can contribute to minimizing the spread of illness and adapt with minimal difficulty to a post-covid world.

To search for the best healthcare providers that offer either COVID-19 Treatment, or vaccines, please use the Mya Care search engine.

Sources:

  • [1] https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-masks
  • [2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2776536
  • [3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35666696/
  • [4] https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/what-we-must-learn-covid-19
  • [5] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html
  • [6] https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/wearing-face-masks-at-home-might-help-ward-off-covid-19-spread-among-family-members/
  • [7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35587940/
  • [8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8752171/

Disclaimer: Please note that Mya Care does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is not intended to replace the care or advice of a qualified health care professional. The views expressed are personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Mya Care. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. Do not reproduce, copy, reformat, publish, distribute, upload, post, transmit, transfer in any manner or sell any of the materials in this blog without prior written permission from myacare.com.