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Drew: Heat, Mask, Staying Safe and Cool- How to Make it all Work

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

August is typically the hottest month of the year in our region of the country. So how does one remain safe during a pandemic, follow state face covering mandates and stay cool all at the same time? How does one achieve this balance?

Keeping your face covered when going outside remains crucial especially in a state like ours with continuous spiking COVID-19 numbers. This article will provide some safety tips to prevent that sweaty mask.

Choosing the right fabric is important. A recent study tested masks made from 100 percent cotton to polyester and silk blends. They tested to see which fabric offered protection from aerosol droplets while providing comfort during hot summer days. It was found that two layers of the cotton T-shirt fabric offered some protection from coughs and sneezes while being twice as breathable than the other tested fabrics.

Fabrics with 40 percent polyester also ranked high. It was determined by Carrie Kovarik, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology’s COVID-19 task force that lighter, softer, cotton coverings can help avoid chafing, heat rash or inflaming a skin condition like eczema or dermatitis.

The next safety tip is to keep your mask dry. Where cotton masks can be more comfortable and traps less air and moisture, it becomes damp due to breathing and sweating. This makes it less effective to filter respiratory particles.

Dr. Jennifer Vanos, a biometeorologist at Arizona State University that studies heat and health, suggests wearing masks made of especially absorbent materials like bamboo. Bamboo can absorb up to three times the amount of water as cotton. She also suggests Hemp also absorbs moisture well, and washable hemp-blend masks are widely available online. Products made from these materials tend to cost more than cotton face coverings.

Selecting the best time of day to venture outside also helps. Avoid going outside at the hottest times of the day and for extended periods. Stop at home between errands if possible, to take a cooling off break and take off your mask. When you do have to stay out for longer periods of time, remember to stay hydrated.

This may be a time you want to skip makeup. Heat and perspiration mixed with makeup or oily skin care products make for a gunky mess under your mask. Dr. Kovarik says “you don’t have the ability to have sweat evaporate when you have the mask on. It sits there and collects. That clogs pores and contributes to the lower-face skin eruptions that have been dubbed “maskne,” a combination of the words mask and acne. She recommends you wear your mask with just a clean face and perhaps a small amount of SPF moisturizer, if you are going to be outside for a long period.

Finally, the most obvious recommendation, take a spare mask with you. Dr. Vanos says to make sure you follow CDC safety recommendations when changing masks, like avoiding crowds and washing or sanitizing your hands.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to Keep an Eye on Safety by wearing your face coverings when in public but staying cool and comfortable in the process.