Preventing Rashes From Wearing Face Masks

We are being told to wear face masks in public whether or not one has the COVID-19 virus. Constant wearing of face masks can lead to skin rashes. Rashes provide an easy entry point for the virus. What can you do to prevent skin rashes from wearing skin masks?

Professor Karen Ousey is Director at the Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention at the University and she was part of a team that conducted detailed 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 in February.

The current emergency emphasizes the problems that can arise with face masks being worn for long periods of time either by healthcare professionals or other workers.

“The wearers are sweating underneath the masks and this causes friction, leading to pressure damage on the nose and cheeks,” said Professor Ousey.  “There can be tears to the skin as a result and these can lead to potential infection,” she added.

The masks the healthcare professionals are wearing have to be fitted to the face. “If healthcare professionals add dressings to the skin under the mask after being fitted, there is a chance that the mask will no longer fit correctly,” continued Professor Ousey.

Professor Ousey advises everyone including members of the general public – such as shop workers – who are wearing masks the following:

  • keep your skin clean, dry and free of sweat
  • use moisturizer and barrier creams such as zinc ointment
  • relieve the pressure from the mask every two hours

“And if they do feel their masks rubbing, take them off as soon as they safely can.”

Professor Ousey was a member of a global team that last year met in London to pool research on device-related pressure ulcers.  It has now produced a 52-page document – published by the Journal of Wound Care – that examines the issues in detail.

Reference: “Device-related pressure ulcers: SECURE prevention” by Amit Gefen, Paulo Alves, Guido Ciprandi, Fiona Coyer, Catherine T Milne, Karen Ousey, Norihiko Ohura, Nicola Waters and Peter Worsley, 18 February 2020, Journal of Wound Care.
DOI: 10.12968/jowc.2020.29.Sup2a.S1

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