By this point, we’re all familiar with the ways we can help keep ourselves safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
We wear face masks in public, wash our hands for at least 20 seconds and practice social distancing.
Although these practices help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they can also come with annoyances. These problems can be bothersome, but they aren’t without solutions — and aren’t an excuse not to be safe.
Here are fixes for some of the pandemic problems you might experience.
If you’re a glasses-wearer, then you know the pain that comes with stepping out of an air-conditioned car into hot summer weather — hazy, hard-to-see-through lenses.
When wearing glasses, the humidity from the mask gets pushed up onto the lenses, which is what causes the fog, said Christopher Clark, a lecturer at the Indiana University School of Optometry.
But the problem might lie in what kind of mask you’re using.
“It depends on the type of mask you have and the seal you have on your mask,” Clark said. “Masks with wire holders at the top, like a surgical mask, are better because you can get a tighter seal at the top to keep that humidity from going up.”
Masks with metal strips allow the wearer to form the mask more closely around the face and nose, which will seal any gaps where humidity could travel upward.
The best fix is to put on a mask, form it to your face, and put the glasses on last, Clark said. He also suggested carrying a cleaning cloth to wipe down lenses regularly.
“You can expect it to be worse if you’re going from a cool environment like an air-conditioned room to outside,” Clark said. “So that will help reduce it if you know you’re transferring from one environment to another.”
Homemade remedies and anti-fog products like wipes and sprays have popped up as potential solutions to this issue, but Clark said these could come with a price.
“The risk is the long-term wear and tear on your glasses,” he said. “A lot of those things can eat away at the coatings or gum up your lenses permanently. So we don’t recommend them to people.”
If there’s one way to feel like a teenager again, it’s by getting breakouts. If you’ve noticed pimples popping up on your chin or cheeks for the first time in years, it could be from your face mask.
When a mask rubs against the skin and causes friction, it can lead to acne in those areas, said Lawrence Mark, an associate professor of dermatology at Indiana University. This irritation, or acne mechanica, can lead to the disruption of the hair follicle where your oil glands are and cause “maskne.”
One way to prevent the hair follicle from getting plugged is to use a good face wash, Mark said.
“Chemical peelers can help keep the follicle or the hair opening stay open. Like over-the-counter salicylic acid acne washes or benzoyl peroxide washes,” Mark said.
Moisturizing your skin is also a key step. A light lubricant can help reduce the friction caused by the mask, but you don’t want a moisturizer that’s too heavy or you run the risk of it clogging your pores, Mark said.
If you notice blackheads, try to open those pores up with something like a Bioré pore strip, Mark added.
Washing cloth face masks frequently can also help.
“Any bacterial load that’s sitting on the mask, you’re kind of keeping down, you’re reducing,” Mark said.
Although face masks can lead to breakouts, that’s not a reason not to wear them.
“I haven’t had anybody come to me with some real severe issue or something that I’d be worried about because they’re wearing a mask,” Mark said.
Mask too big
If your face mask keeps falling below your nose, that’s a clear sign your mask is too loose.
The fastest and simplest solution is to tie a knot in your oversized mask’s ear loops, measuring where the knot should go to best fit your face.
You can also try masks with adjustable ear loops. These face masks come pre-tied with knots or cord locks that make securing the straps to your ears easier.
You could also use a face mask lanyard, which is similar to a lanyard you might use for glasses. The lanyard attaches to a mask’s ear loops and sits on the wearer’s back. Many of these lanyards come with adjustable cord locks, which can be used to pull the mask tighter to the face from behind the head.
Children might also need their face masks to be tightened, since most face masks come in adult sizes. Try looking for face coverings in youth sizes. They run smaller than adult masks and often come in fun patterns.
Maybe frequent mask use is leaving you sore behind the ears. If this is the case, you’ll want to hook your mask loops onto something other than your ears.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Amazon, Etsy and other online products that can help with this.
In addition to sewing masks, some people have also begun to create headbands and other accessories in matching patterns. Some of these pieces have buttons sewn on the sides that masks can attach to.
“Ear savers” are similar, and allow mask loops to hook onto a strap that sits on the back of the head. They can be homemade with fabric and buttons or manufactured with several notches for different sizing options.
Another option is to avoid masks that use elastic straps altogether. Some face masks use loose cloth ties instead of stretchy loops, and these ties can be a good solve if the elastic is bothersome.
For a no-cost solution, try fastening both mask loops to a paperclip behind your head or even two hair buns or pigtails.
If you’re washing your hands and using sanitizer frequently, you might notice your hands getting dry or cracking.
The solution? Moisturize. A lot.
“How thick you use depends on how bad and how sensitive your skin is,” Mark said. “Somebody who’s not that sensitive might moisturize a couple times a day with some lighter Neutrogena or Aveeno moisturizer or something like that. But then I’ve got other folks who have more sensitive skin, and they really need something that’s not a white cream, but rather more ointment-like, like Vaseline or they might need Neutrogena’s Norwegian hand formula.”
While it’s probably not feasible to use these products each time after you wash your hands, people should try to use them several times a day to lock in moisture, Mark said.
Mark said he washes his hands between every single patient he sees, and sometimes he does so even more often. He said he avoids using alcohol-based hand sanitizers when he can help it.
“I’d rather wash my hands with a gentle soap and water every time because the alcohol is really a major irritant,” Mark said. “Gel sanitizer or liquid sanitizer is almost all alcohol, and to kill things with alcohol, it has to actually dry in place. And every time you do that, you’re actually wicking more moisture out of the hands and making it break down.”
Mark said his go-to soap is a Dove unscented bar soap for sensitive skin.
“You can’t avoid using the hand gel altogether, but if you’re able to minimize that part, you may find you like your hands better,” he said.
Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Madison O’Connor at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @madisonoconn.