The Secret Way Your Dirty Mask Could Be Making You Sick
Cleaning your mask is essential to keep you safe from all illnesses, not just COVID.
Wearing a mask is undeniably important when it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus. However, how well you take care of your mask is also important. A clean mask is better at stopping the spread—and that's not all. As it turns out, not cleaning your mask might be making you sick in other ways. According to experts, your dirty mask could be giving you a sore throat. Read on to find out how, and for other mask mistakes to avoid, Dr. Fauci Says You Might Still Be Making This Big Mistake With Masks.
"Sometimes the dust participles that are in the air—sometimes viruses that are in the air—can get stuck into your mask," Karen Bally, director of infection prevention for Ascension Via Christi Hospitals, said during an interview with KWCH. "If you're not washing it and taking care of it properly, sometimes that does lead to sore throats."
According to the Mayo Clinic, sore throats can be caused by multiple problems, including viruses, bacteria, dry air, outdoor irritants, muscle strain, and even gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Family medicine physician Neha Vyas, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic that dirty masks can cause sore throats due to the germs residing in them. When you wear a dirty mask, you may end up breathing in the bacteria or viruses trapped in the mask.
And getting a sore throat amid the pandemic can be especially worrying. After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a sore throat as a coronavirus symptom. But it's important to note that a sore throat may not actually be all that common when it comes to COVID. One Chinese study commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that out of more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, only 14 percent reported the symptom. So, there's a high chance your sore throat is the result of something other than COVID—and yes, a dirty mask is one possibility.
Luckily, the risk ends when you clean your mask. Bally said that there's "no scientific evidence that the mask itself is causing you to have a sore throat." As long as you're wearing it properly, touching it as little as possible, and cleaning it regularly, you should be fine.
According to the CDC, you should clean your mask after every use. They recommend washing your mask with your regular laundry, using detergent and the warmest water setting you can use for the mask's fabric. And if you take off your mask after wearing it all day, you should also only do so with clean hands and touch only the ear loops or ties. And if you're wondering when you can ditch your mask, Dr. Fauci Says You Don't Need to Wear a Mask in This One Scenario.