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2 min read

The face mask has become an essential part of everyday life during the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC recommends people wear face masks to protect others and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

However, some people find masks difficult to wear. People who have sensory sensitivities can find lights too bright, the hum of a refrigerator too loud, or the earloops of a surgical mask too constricting to wear for extended periods of time.

If you or a loved one finds mask-wearing difficult, here are some ideas that may help:

  1. Change the type of mask

There are a variety of mask options on the market now. Changing the type of mask you select may make wearing it more tolerable. Here are a few options:

Tube-style masks or neck gaiters can be worn around your neck when a mask isn’t needed and doesn’t need to go on your ears. A headband mask attaches to a headband rather than loops around your ears. There are also head loop masks that wrap around your head and are adjustable. All of these are options for masks that don’t rest on your ears.

  1. Find a fun mask

Along with different shapes of masks, there is a large variety of designs. If your child has a favorite character, you can buy or make a face covering with a print of that character. You can find masks with favorite sayings or even a mask with a smile printed on it. Finding a face covering that you think is fun or beautiful may make you feel more excited about putting it on.

  1. Wear the mask for increasing periods of time

After finding the right mask for you or your child, you can work on increasing wear time by:

  • Trying it on at home and wearing it for a short period. 
  • Gradually increase wearing time. 
  • Include a reward for successfully keeping the mask in place for a length of time, such as enjoying a bowl of ice cream or dancing to a favorite song together. 

Though a mask might not be completely comfortable, your body may learn to adjust as you wear it for more time.

  1. Reach out to professional

An occupational therapist can help individuals with sensory sensitivities find ways to relieve their discomfort from clothes, lights, sounds, or pressure. You may find it helpful to consult with an OT about you or your child’s difficulty wearing a mask. These professionals can also help you identify strategies to support wearing a mask, like deep pressure input or creating a sensory diet.

Masks may not work for everyone. While wearing masks is crucial for public health, some people may not be able to wear one. For individuals who can’t tolerate wearing a mask, the CDC has some safety guidelines that don’t include a face covering. However, it’s important to wash your hands properly, maintain social distancing, and wipe down frequently touched items with or without a mask.

If you are unable to wear a mask, you may need to spend more time at home. Don’t be afraid to lean on a friend or loved one to help run errands for you. By supporting each other, we will get through this together.