Face masks can be uncomfortable

Some people who have to wear masks during this COVID period describe sensory problems. So what is that? I don’t think it’s a true diagnosis. But there are people who do find wearing masks quite discomforting almost through to distressingly discomforting.

Try different fabrics

So how do you deal with that if you’re that person? Well, the first is to look at the different fabrics. So if artificial materials tend to make it worse, play with different fabrics that may make you feel more comfortable.

Gradually increase the time you wear the mask

Another is gradual exposure. So rather than wearing a mask, leaving home, and suddenly realising you need to have the mask on for 3 or 4 hours, try brief periods of gradual exposure with a preferred material. And hopefully that gradual exposure with the right material will make it more comfortable.

And then lastly, if neither of those two approaches are particularly effective, then utilise mask-wearing in a very targeted, brief manner in those environments where you must wear it. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’ll be out of control, where you’re wearing a mask and have to wear a mask and you’re feeling increasingly uncomfortable and indeed anxious about wearing a mask. Make a plan. Fit your mask-wearing into that plan, and use the optimal material. And if you do all of those things, it should mean that the sensitivity that you have to mask-wearing will be kept to a minimum.

Presented by, Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

Last Reviewed: 19/08/2020

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