As oxygen therapy users, we know how important it is to protect our skin from damage and keep it healthy. Facemasks are a great way to do this because they can help reduce the risk of infection, such as MRSA, which can be caused by bacteria that clings to masks at hospital and nursing home settings. The problem with many facemasks is that they have not been tested for safety in oxygen therapy patients. This blog post will focus on why you should never use your traditional mask for oxygen therapy and what you should look for when purchasing an appropriate mask.
When and Why to Wear a Facemask in Public
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends wearing a cloth face covering when you are in public. The novel coronavirus spreads primarily from person to person through droplets produced when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes and, while social distancing of six feet is the best way to ensure you don’t inhale these droplets, wearing a cloth mask also helps.
There are two reasons for this recommendation: First, a cloth facemask creates a barrier to help stop you from spreading a virus you may not know you have. Second, it can provide some level of protection to you from others. The best possible level of protection comes from you wearing a mask and the people around you wearing a mask.
So when should you wear cloth facemask? The CDC recommends that people over the age of two wear cloth facemasks in public settings, particularly where proper social distancing may be hard to maintain.
This can include places like the grocery store, pharmacy, gas station or even to pick up takeout from a local restaurant. If you might encounter another person in close proximity, wear a mask.
While the CDC warns that people with breathing difficulties should be careful about wearing facemasks, many states and cities are requiring cloth facemasks if you’re in public. That means that for a majority of people will need to get accustomed to wearing a facemask.
Thankfully, if worn properly, facemasks should not impede your breathing or your oxygen therapy.
6 Tips for Safely Wearing a Facemask During Oxygen Therapy
When you use oxygen therapy, wearing a facemask may be a little trickier, but it just takes practice. Your facemask should fit securely on your face, without getting in the way of your nasal cannula or your tubing. Below are some tips to help you make sure that your cloth facemask fits properly, stays on and doesn’t interfere with your oxygen therapy.
- Try several kinds of masks. There’s really no such thing as one-size-fits-all, so it’s helpful to try different styles of facemasks to see which fits you best and feels most comfortable. There are many designs available, so whether you buy a pre-made facemask or make your own, look for a breathable 100% cotton version that fits you well and feels secure.
- Practice wearing your facemask at home. Wearing a facemask is new to most of us, so it can take some time to get used to it. Practice wearing your facemask at home to get accustomed to putting it on, getting it comfortably secured and taking it off correctly. Practice talking and breathing with a facemask on so you can get used to the sensation. Wearing your facemask with your oxygen therapy while you do things at home will help you feel more comfortable with it once you’re out.
- Your facemask should cover your nose, mouth and chin without disrupting your nasal cannula. Your facemask should fit your face securely, without slipping down or feeling overly tight. It shouldn’t disrupt your breathing or press on your nasal cannula or oxygen tubing. The fit should be close, without gaping at the top, bottom or sides, but there should be enough room for your nasal cannula and tubing to fit inside comfortably.
- Find a mask with a bendable edge at the top.
Many cloth facemasks are made with a bendable wire or other adjustable material to help you fit the mask close to your nose. This helps your facemask stay securely in place, but it can also help with comfort over your nasal cannula and reduce fogging on glasses. It’s important to get a secure, comfortable fit so you’re not tempted to adjust the mask when you’re out and about. Once you have your mask on, avoid touching it until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands.
- Remove your mask safely. Always wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before putting your mask on, adjusting it or taking it off. When you’re ready to remove your facemask, only touch the straps and remove them from behind your ears so you don’t touch your eyes, nose, mouth or cannula.
- Wash everything.
Fold the outside mask corners in, then drop your facemask directly in the washing machine or hand wash by following the CDC’s instructions. Wash your nasal cannula and tubing straightaway, too.
Wearing a facemask during oxygen therapy can take some getting used to, but with practice, you’ll learn how to wear your facemask comfortably and safely.
Author: Jen Coltrin is the Content and Marketing Manager at Inogen. Inogen’s mission is to educate oxygen users on how to navigate life with supplemental oxygen.
While the CDC is recommending that people wear a cloth mask to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, this may not be feasible for those who like their oxygen therapy. Luckily there are some ways you can still get your oxygen while also protecting yourself and others from contracting the virus. One option is to use an air purifier or vacuum pump in combination with a surgical or N95 mask (which has been shown to filter out droplets) when coming into contact with other people. Another option is using disposable filters on your machine so you don’t have to worry about cleaning it every day.