Beware of skin infections caused by coronavirus masks

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Wearing a mask during the COVID-19 outbreak could cause skin infections, warns a British specialist, who has provided a number of recommendations on how to protect yourself from the virus while maintaining healthy skin.

Masks play an essential role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for healthcare workers, who need both to protect themselves and limit the possibility that they will spread the virus. But wearing a mask throughout the day, or even for a few hours, can result in irritated skin.

Karen Ousey, a skin specialist and professor at the University of Huddersfield in England, explains that infections can be caused by perspiration and masks rubbing against wearers' noses: “The wearers are sweating underneath the masks and this causes friction, leading to pressure damage on the nose and cheeks."

If they are serious, these infections can leave long-lasting scars or, in a worst-case scenario, require hospital treatment. To limit these risks, Prof. Ousey has recently published a number of recommendations, which are primarily addressed to healthcare workers, but can also apply to everyone, including people for whom remote working is not possible, such as employees in food stores. 

"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," points out Professor Ousey.

The expert also recommends that wearers should cleanse and thoroughly moisturize their skin at least 30 minutes before putting on a mask, and adds that in the event of friction, masks should be removed as soon as it is safely possible.