If you need to wear a face mask, as so many people have had to do during the Covid-19 pandemic, chances are you’ll have encountered one or two issues with them.
Some people feel their breathing is constrained, while others struggle to communicate through them, and if you wear glasses, you’ll know how quickly they can get steamed up above a mask.
But fortunately, there are solutions to be found for these common problems and others you may have encountered, as you’ll see in this five-point list:
1. Uncomfortable breathing sensation
Breathing through a face mask can feel strange at first, and some people experience a stifling sensation.
However, reliable sources, such as the European Lung Foundation and the British Lung Foundation, offer reassurance that face masks do not hinder breathing, even when the wearer has a lung condition.
Breathing can seem constrained when the air inside the mask becomes warm and moist, in contrast to the cool, flowing air you’re used to, but the stuffy feeling does not signal any health or safety issue.
To reduce the discomfort, remove your mask whenever feasible and take some long, deep breaths of fresh air.
Anxiety about your breathing may cause you to tense your throat and chest muscles, adding to that stifling feeling, so try to relax and focus your mind on other matters.
The good news is that the great majority of people quickly become accustomed to breathing through a mask.
2. Voice muffled
Face masks come in various types of material, ranging from light plastic and cotton to denser fabrics like denim. If you’re struggling to make yourself heard through your mask, try one in a lighter material.
Some people find the single-use plastic ones particularly beneficial for voice clarity. These have the bonus of being slightly transparent, showing an outline of your lip movements, which may help your listeners.
Slowing down your speech and raising your voice a little will also help. Body language can go a long way in conveying your words, too, so make the most of this.
Express yourself through your eyes and eyebrows, and through clear hand and arm gestures.
Nods, shakes, and tilts of the head can also aid communication when words are muffled.
3. Smile hidden
When socializing through a face mask, you may worry that friends can’t see your friendly smile.
Fortunately, though, a smile is not restricted to the lips, but spreads all over the face, manifesting itself in your sparkling eyes and the laughter lines around them, and perhaps in raised eyebrows and heightened color around your cheekbones.
Friends will also hear the warm welcome in your voice.
Bear in mind, too, that a close friend or relative will sense your warm affection instinctively, just as they would in a text message.
But if you feel it’s important to show your smiling lips now and again or in special circumstances, you might decide it’s worth removing your mask briefly, from a safe distance.
4. Glasses steamed up
If you wear glasses, they may mist over when you’re wearing your face mask. This is due to the condensation from your breath rising through the top of the mask. Lens-misting can be very inconvenient but is easily resolved.
Just tuck the upper tip of your face mask under the rims of your glasses to seal up that particular escape route for your breath. It will find others, so don’t worry about any adverse effects.
Make sure your mask fits snugly over your nose and cheeks, pressing down the upper rim and tightening the fastenings as necessary.
You can also buy anti-fogging products for your glasses. These are available over the counter in pharmaceutical stores and also online, with prices ranging from a few dollars upwards.
5. Mask easily lost or forgotten
How often have you set out somewhere without your face mask, and had to go back for it or buy a new one? Modern face masks are so light and convenient, it’s all too easy to forget about them.
They also have a tendency to slip out of a bag or pocket when you’re delving for something else
If your face mask is important to you, designate a place for it at home, and another in your clothing, purse, or travel bag when out and about.
Make it a rule that you keep to these arrangements, to ensure you remember it when you set out, and locate it quickly wherever you are.
It’s also a good idea to keep spare masks in different places, such as in the car, at your place of work, at your best friend’s place, and in different rooms around your own home.
When the air around you is unsafe, a simple face mask will bring you freedom, so they’re worth their weight in gold. If or when a little snag crops up, there’s always a way around it.
And remember, none of these tips should override the need to choose a face covering that’s effective at protecting you from contaminated air.
The Internet is full of authoritative guides to finding the most effective masks.