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Skin Damage from Protective Masks?

COVID-19: Suffering from Skin Damage from Protective Masks? Researchers Offer Remedies to Heal

Healthcare professionals on the COVID-19 frontline are spending many hours a day wearing face masks, and many members of the general public are doing the same. But although the devices offer invaluable protection, they can be the cause of significant skin damage through sweating and the rubbing of the masks against the nose. An international team of medical, clinical and bioengineering experts is warning about these risks and is suggesting remedies.

Suffering from skin damage from face masks? Gefen et al offer remedies to health staff and the general public. Image credit: Leo2014.

Suffering from skin damage from face masks? Gefen et al offer remedies to health staff and the general public. Image credit: Leo2014.

The team, headed by Tel Aviv University’s Professor Amit Gefen, conducted detailed research into the pressure damage caused by a wide range of medical devices, including face masks.

“The wearers are sweating underneath the masks and this causes friction, leading to pressure damage on the nose and cheeks,” said Professor Karen Ousey, from the University of Huddersfield in the UK, Queensland University of Technology in Australia, and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

“There can be tears to the skin as a result and these can lead to potential infection.”

“The masks the healthcare professionals are wearing have to be fitted to the face — so if healthcare professionals add dressings to the skin under the mask after being fitted there is a chance the mask will no longer fit correctly.”

Professor Gefen, Professor Ousey and their colleagues suggest that people wearing masks keep their skin clean, well-hydrated and moisturized and that barrier creams should be applied at least half an hour before masks are put on.

“And we are suggesting that pressure from the mask is relieved every two hours.”

“So you come away from the patient, relieve the pressure in a safe place and clean the skin again,” Professor Ousey said.

She advises members of the general public — such as shop workers — who are wearing masks to keep their skin clean, dry and free of sweat.

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

The recommendations were published in the Journal of Wound Care.


Amit Gefen et al. 2020. Device-related pressure ulcers: SECURE prevention. Journal of Wound Care 29, Sup2a; doi: 10.12968/jowc.2020.29.Sup2a.S1

This article is based on text provided by the University of Huddersfield.

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