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.