WebMD BlogsPublic Health

'Why Is It Important to Cover Your Nose With a Mask?'

mask under nose
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNOctober 27, 2020

We’ve all seen them: The people who wear a mask over their mouth only, leaving their nose uncovered. And maybe you wondered if that was OK.

No, it’s not.

Here’s why it’s important to cover your nose with a mask, as well as your mouth.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus lives in people’s nasal passages. When an infected person exhales, they release viral particles from their nose into the air. (And notice we’re talking about a basic exhale, not a cough or sneeze. Even the simple act of breathing releases particles.) A mask -- worn over the mouth and nose -- helps to keep these infectious particles from becoming airborne and reaching others.

Perhaps people who are “half-masking” feel healthy so they assume the particles coming out of their nose are perfectly harmless -- no harm, no foul. But as you’ve probably heard by now, people can be infectious without symptoms, so someone may feel like it’s safe for them to only halfway wear their mask, but they have no way of knowing that.

And wearing a mask (properly) isn’t just about protecting others. New research suggests that a mask reduces the volume of germs the wearer breathes in, protecting the wearer from getting sick. So if you leave your nose uncovered, you’re breathing in more particles from the air around you, putting yourself at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

Some people claim they “don’t breathe through their nose” due to congestion or a deviated septum or another medical issue. This isn’t a pass to half-mask. Even if it feels like you can’t breathe through your nose, air is still moving through your nasal passages. You still can breathe in viral particles or exhale them through your nose. So you still need a mask over your nose.

If covering both your nose and mouth with a mask makes you feel claustrophobic, try different types of face coverings -- maybe a larger sized mask or a multi-layer gaiter -- to find one that you can wear with reasonable comfort over your nose and mouth. You’ll be keeping yourself safer from COVID-19 and also protecting others around you.

 

WebMD Blog
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

More from the Public Health Blog

View all posts on Public Health

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More