All Day Mask Wear
August 6, 2020 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I'll be returning to in-person work soon and will need to wear a mask all day. I've never had to wear a mask for more than say 30 minutes at a time. I'd like some suggestions on making it easier.

I work for the schools and my district plans to return to full-time in school person soon*, **. As stated above, I've never worn a mask for significant portions of time. I'm also a glasses wearer. I will probably not wear a face shield or goggles in addition to my mask because I have very poor vision and even slight losses of vision in these affect me significantly. I also don't drive so this will require public transportation one day a week only (I can walk the other days).

Things I'm wondering about:
-should I use a N95 or equivalent mask instead of the cloth masks I've been using since my exposure will be so much higher?
-Or will trying to breathe wearing a mask like that all day be too difficult?
-If I do go for the N95/equivalent masks, are people disposing of them everytime (outside of healthcare) or can I let it sit for several days so I can reuse it?
-I've been wearing ear loop types, but even if I stay with cloth, I assume head band types will be much more comfortable in this situation?
-Any other tips to balance safety and comfort?

*I'm aware people have strong opinions on this, but regardless of my personal thoughts, I need to be prepared
**I'm not looking for advice on maintaining a clean area at work or other covid-related work concerns, mask wearing only
posted by Aranquis to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been back in person for a while, and recommend having multiple masks on hand. I find that even if I'm not getting sweaty, condensation from breathing/talking tends to make the mask wet, so I usually switch at lunch time. I find the most comfortable to be an ear loop mask with earsaver bands I 3-d printed. That rubs less on bare skin behind my ears and also stays super secure so I'm not adjusting things.

Unfortunately, I only tried one day with glasses before I went back to contacts due to fogging. Either putting the mask well under the lenses or over the lenses was the only way I could keep them from fogging and neither was ideal.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 9:21 AM on August 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

When I visited my eye doctor recently, she used a small piece of tape to hold down the top of the mask to my nose, which completely fixed the glasses fogging problem. I think it was some kind of medical tape. I don't know if that would be comfortable for all-day wear, but maybe worth a try.
posted by tuesdayschild at 9:35 AM on August 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've just discovered that masks with cloth ear bands, rather than elastic, are way more comfortable. They don't hurt the back of your ears and don't seem to press against your mouth as uncomfortably - but if made well they should be the right shape to stay in place on your face nontheless. I've got these ones, which I love (based in Belgium so might not be useful to you but they seem to ship quickly to the UK so might be worth a go if you can't find something similar near you).
posted by penguin pie at 9:41 AM on August 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

My limited use of masks-with-glasses due to Zoom had me looking at reviews for how flexible the wiring/metal on the nose might be. If I can get the mask molded too my nose, there is no condensation. I have a wonky rx, and my eyes began to react to contacts about 3 years ago, so I’m glasses only as well. I’ve looked into prescription lab goggles and swim goggles as well, but currently have several masks that I cycle through, change filters and clean.
posted by childofTethys at 9:41 AM on August 6, 2020

If you can deal with sliding yr glasses further down yr nose, I've found that has helped me with the fogging up issue.

My in-person experience has been in a manufacturing facility with pretty limited interaction with adults, so I've been fine with cloth masks and YMMV but if you are comfortable with cloth, get a few different types of masks if you can. I found that the pleated cloth style in a woven fabric is the most comfortable for me. I also have jersey knit, ninja style masks, but the ninja style squishes my large nose, and the jersey knit fabric makes me sweat a lot more in the heat. Also since the ninja style is tighter to the face I feel like it gets pulled out of position if I have to talk a lot and I find myself needing to adjust it, while a more billowy pleated mask stays in place better when I'm talking.

Also, a little wire strip to conform to the nose makes a difference with glasses fogging so look for those.

Good luck, stay safe.
posted by dudemanlives at 9:46 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have been doing 2+ hour lectures while masked and shielded in smallish rooms. It's a slog in medical masks: I'd suffocate in cloth ones. I started off wearing an N95-equivalent under a surgical mask (this is a healthcare setting), and even that was too heavy and I had to make frequent mid-sentence stops to gather breath. Now I'm just wearing the surgical mask and if I'm moving around while speaking animatedly, I still occasionally need to sit down for a moment, though I can keep talking. Mine has earloops but I use an elastic mitten clip (as in, for little kids to keep their mittens attached to their coat sleeves) to stretch them behind my head. The top band would still rub, so I hook that over my glasses stems. The glasses I also keep on one of those lanyards so they don't slip from the extra sweat. Plus, to cut down on fogging of the shield (which in my opinion is much worse than the glasses), I have a thin folded tissue just under the nose piece of the mask (on preview: totally going to try medical tape now though). All together it really is quite the get-up but it's getting me through.

We do not dispose of disposable masks unless they're actually soiled or otherwise seem damaged. I cycle through a set, and that's already more than they actually wanted to issue me. Eventually N95s get bothersome to breathe through (I know this from having used them for home improvement projects back when that was a thing), and then they need to be discarded, but I suspect lighter-weight/less rigid masks will break down and become ineffective due to micro holes instead of reaching that stage.
posted by teremala at 9:47 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

N95 is up to you, I would if you have access to them but probably would not really obsess about it.

I wear the same (N95 non-valved construction, from an old house project) mask every day I'm in the office and just leave it in my car, because the viruses don't live that long on porous surfaces anyway and it keeps them out of my lungs, but I'm also not going to work every day - maybe two days a week. I'd also consider a vented N95 with a cloth mask over it to seal the hole, since those aren't taking away from health care if you have to buy more.
posted by Lady Li at 10:05 AM on August 6, 2020

Definitely have a spare that's lighter around the face - something pleated style - because you may find the N95 gets unbearably sweaty. It might make sense to switch on your breaks or if you're able to be outside - use the lower risk time to dry out your primary mask and your face.
posted by Lady Li at 10:08 AM on August 6, 2020

Surgical taping the top of the mask to your face as mentioned by tuesdayschild will definitely solve the fogging problem. get the kind for sensitive skin for maximum comfort. i found it at my local chain pharmacy.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 10:13 AM on August 6, 2020

You can try the trick of soaping up your glasses and them rinsing them off, then air-drying so a thin film is left to deter fogging. Or order mask defogging solution from a dive shop.

I wear a pleated surgical mask all day at work and it's irritating to my ears, so I use the headband with buttons for the loops. Or use medical tape st the top of the mask.

I work a physical job that's mostlyoutside and have no problem breathing, but do take breathers sometimes because it's so hot and humid hereabouts.

I'm so sorry that you will be inclosed in a room full of others. Sending well-wishes your way.
posted by mightshould at 10:16 AM on August 6, 2020

When I have to go into the office, I’ve been wearing a mask from
Tom Bihn - looks like they’re temporarily out, but they do restock often. Ear loops don’t hurt like elastic ones. A friend who is a pilot went with the fabric tubes you slip over your head doubled up because of sensitive ears. You might try a few different styles if you can - then you can switch if needed.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 10:38 AM on August 6, 2020

I find that tucking a folded tissue inside the top edge of the mask (as shown in this video) significantly cuts down on condensation on my glasses, and also makes the mask feel slightly more comfortable on my skin.

Also, lots of people seem to find that masks with long ties that go behind the back of the head and neck are more comfortable and stay in position better than masks with elastic ear loops.
posted by Lexica at 10:40 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

a woman sewed buttons on her kid's hat when he couldn't tolerate the loops on his ears
posted by brujita at 10:45 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I definitely find masks with long around-the-head ties more comfortable than ear loops for longer term wear. I can basically forget I’m wearing a cotton mask with head ties (knit ties, like strips of an old t-shirt, are especially comfy).
posted by mskyle at 10:48 AM on August 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

One thing Ive found useful is keeping a facial mist in my car, and spraying my face with it if I go out for lunch, and at the end of the day. My skin gets weird if I wear a mask for a long time, and this helps (and feels nice too).

It's so hard to teach with a mask on, my voice wears out sooner from having to talk so much louder so be prepared for that.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 10:51 AM on August 6, 2020

As a fellow glasses-wearer, if you can't get N95s, I'm here to suggest getting a Happy mask or two. They seem to be better at preventing fogging and are lightweight, comfortable, and don't seem to get as sweaty as a cloth mask. They appear to be back-ordered at the moment, but maybe worth the wait.
posted by acridrabbit at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Masks with ties are WAY more comfortable than ear loops. They're also more easily adjustable. I bought a bunch of cute ones from Etsy and wear them when I go to the office.
posted by orrnyereg at 11:30 AM on August 6, 2020

breathe through you nose, ditch the makeup if you wear it, and wash your face thoroughly at the end of the day. the zit danger is real.
posted by megan_magnolia at 11:32 AM on August 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I work in a grocery store. I’ve been wearing masks for 8+ hours a day for months now. I also wear glasses. I am wearing cloth masks made by a friend. They are pleated style, with metal in the bridge. I wear the mask fairly high on my face and have had no problem with my glasses fogging as long as I press the wire onto the bridge of my nose to get it as snug as possible. I wear my glasses slightly lower on the bridge of my nose too which seems to help.

My masks have elastic ear loops. I took thinner hair bands and looped the elastic through them on each side. I wear my hair in a low bun and loop each of the hair bands around the bun. Doing this keeps the mask tight against my face and keeps the elastic under my ears. It also makes it more comfortable to wear the mask higher up on my face because the sides angle down more. I loop the hair bands so I can slide the elastic up or down through them to adjust the fit.

I would also recommend that you practice talking with your mask on. If your mask gets sucked into your mouth or pulls in a way that hurts your nose, it’s better to find out and adjust before you’re committed to a day with it. Your breathing and volume will also change and that was the hardest adjustment I had to make.

If you are doing cloth masks, when you find one that really works for you, buy as many as you can afford. You can have extras and not have to worry about tracking more down when you need them again. A super uncomfortable mask on a bad day brought me to tears once.

It took me about a month to fully acclimate to the mask life and it seems very normal to me now. If your mask is not uncomfortable or painful but just feels weird, give it time and the weirdness will get easier.

On a mental/emotional note, the first week of wearing a mask was hard for me. When you spend all day with a mask on, it’s pretty hard to ignore that there are too many people pretending that life just goes on as usual when we are in a pandemic. There was a lot more sadness and anger that first week as some new realities settled in. Maybe figure out some extra ways you can be kind to yourself as you adjust.
posted by August Fury at 1:07 PM on August 6, 2020 [9 favorites]

I work as a nurse in a very busy outpatient area. I encounter dozens of patients each day and am up close and personal. I wear a surgical mask and regular eyeglasses. I push my eyeglasses down on my nose a bit to inhibit steam. It doesn't work perfectly but it's manageable.

Be aware that wearing an N95 for the entire day might be more difficult. It is a respirator and you will have airflow resistance.

Wearing a surgical mask is not bothersome for me. I wear it properly for my entire shift except during lunch and sipping coffee in the break room. Perhaps I am used to it. The best thing is practice. When wearing a surgical mask, keep your mouth closed when not speaking, relax and breathe normally through the nose. There is not airflow resistance with surgical masks. I think most people are confusing being "hot" or for not getting air. If you breathe through the mouth in an effort to get more "air" your jaw can tighten and it's uncomfortable. I act natural and pretend I don't have a mask on. It's easy and I don't feel suffocated.

Surgical masks can be worn more than once. They can even be washed and dried. I get fresh ones at work, however I have worn a surgical mask several times in a row without problems. Be sure to not wear lipstick or makeup to prolong use. If you like makeup use fabric masks that can be laundered.
posted by loveandhappiness at 2:19 PM on August 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

I work in daycare and I've been wearing a mask for a while now. I like the duckbill style mask better than the pleated ones. I also have a headband with buttons sewn on it for the ear loops. I think I'm weird and haven't had a huge problem with my glasses fogging up. I have enough masks that I can change multiple times a day. My allergies make it so I often breathe through my mouth, so they get humid and nasty pretty fast. I bought some on Etsy in cute fabrics, because kids and wash them on the weekend.
posted by kathrynm at 3:57 PM on August 6, 2020

Mask defogging tricks only work if your glasses don’t have an anti glare coating on them, if you have multiple pairs, try out a few with defogging spray.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:55 PM on August 6, 2020

you can buy a pack of 100 or so of those little metal butterfly clips that hold ACE bandages shut, it's like $7 on amazon, and use them as a nose clip for a cloth mask. you can throw it away after a single use since they're hard to clean and cheap as hell, and you don't have to worry about a stitched-in nose clip getting bent or tearing the mask when you put the mask itself in the wash. it also keeps your glasses from sliding down your face, which in turn keeps you from having to touch your face every 30 seconds.

the fabric should be thick enough that the tiny pins in the clip don't touch/scratch your skin. if it's not then it's probably not going to do a very good job as a mask.

for me this defeats the fogging abt 95%.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:40 AM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

-should I use a N95 or equivalent mask instead of the cloth masks I've been using since my exposure will be so much higher?
It depends on the level of risk you think that you are exposed to and what level of protection you need for your family. I definitely understand anyone who lives with a high risk elderly parent and feels like they cannot afford to get sick. CDC recommends that NIOSH N95 still be reserved for medical staff. There are plenty of quality KN95 that offer you similar protection.

-Or will trying to breathe wearing a mask like that all day be too difficult?
No. It is not comfortable and a pain in the butt, but we medical staff do it all day long on a regular basis. We find that surgical masks are tougher to wear, because they sit close to your nose and mouth and gets wet and itchy though. You want a mask that gives you space between the nose and mouth.

-If I do go for the N95/equivalent masks, are people disposing of them everytime (outside of healthcare) or can I let it sit for several days so I can reuse it?
By the manufacturer, they are one-time use. You can reuse them or sterilize them. Many people don't quite know that respirators work by retaining their electrostatic charge on the fabric. Some sterilizing technique will render the electric charge useless. If you do re-use it, then I would just leave them untouched for several days, so that any virus particle on the mask will die.

-I've been wearing ear loop types, but even if I stay with cloth, I assume headband types will be much more comfortable in this situation?
The headbands will help relieve the pressure off of your ears. Also, head wrap have been research-proven to provide a tighter fit.

-Any other tips to balance safety and comfort?
I would get a good KN95 with headwrap for optimal safety and comfort. The price point for N95 are way too high.

You can read more about tips like this in this medium article about N95 and KN95. Thanks.
posted by jpark at 2:28 PM on August 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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