Mask Tips for Migraine Patients
Last updated: October 2020
I don’t wear a mask often. That’s not because I don’t believe in their efficacy, and it’s not because I am at all careless when it comes to preventing the spread (or the possibility of the spread) of COVID-19.
Why don't I wear a mask most of the time?
What do you mean you don’t wear a mask often? Don’t you care?! I am gravely concerned about the pandemic! The reason why I don’t wear a mask too often is because I spend 99% of my time at my house, where I am the solo human along with two felines. When I do see friends or run errands, yeah — I wear a mask and keep my distance. I exercise an abundance of caution. But, in contrast to friends of mine whose jobs require them to share space (or HVAC systems) with others for several hours each day, it’s rare that I am sharing airspace with anyone.
My bag of face masks
When I do go out, I like to have a variety of masks with me. I keep 2-3 clean masks in a tiny, clear, see-through bag that zips closed. Using a zippered bag with a texture that contrasts with my other pouches/bags allows me to reach easily into my backpack or purse and feel the telltale texture of the storage bag. I can grab the masks without having to spend time digging through my bag — and time is of the essence if someone is approaching my personal space in the time of a pandemic!
I have different face masks
I make sure to have different styles with me (and I’m not talking about different fabrics, though I do love a variety where that’s concerned!). I make sure to have ones that are easy to slip on for brief interactions as well as ones that can be worn securely but comfortably for a long period.
Masks for short-term wear: the fabric mask with elastic
Most masks I have are the ones with the elastic ear loops. I always have at least one of these with me when I leave the house. They’re fairly easy to put on in a hurry. so if I am pulling up to the pharmacy pickup window or if I need to dip into my bookstore to grab mail, I can protect myself and others lickety-split.
Discomfort from masks with elastic ear loops
Unfortunately, they’re also profoundly uncomfortable for me. Like most migraineurs, I am super-sensitive to stimuli, particularly when it comes to my neck and head. The pull of the elastic can drive me up the wall, yes, but it also hurts after a few minutes. As I type, I feel a dull throbbing behind my left ear and on the left side of my head, echoes of the discomfort I felt while pacing back and forth in the vet’s parking lot as I waited for them to bring me my younger cat (all is well with my kitties, by the way).
After I write this, I plan to go to bed in hopes that I can avoid getting a migraine — I feel one beginning, and its epicenter is at the cartilage where my ear connects to my skull. Dang mask.
Masks for long-term wear: the fabric mask with ties
Situations like the above are exactly why I invested in some masks that can be worn comfortably for a longer period. I buy my masks from a sustainable fashion boutique online - Community - seamstresses make handmade, reusable masks out of lovely fabric. I have several of their masks that loop around my ears, but my favorites are the ones with long ties that allow me to tie the mask firmly but comfortably so that I can wear the masks for longer periods with no ear pain! (I also like how you can situate them so they cover your full jaw; they don’t slip, either. And there’s a small piece of bendable wire at the top so you can make the mask fit to your nose better.
A pain free option for masks
Apart from occasionally getting a piece of my long hair in the knot I’m tying (ouch!), this type of mask is pain-free for me and hasn’t triggered any migraine attacks so far.
Donating masks to frontline workers
Bonus: you can pay a few bucks extra to get two masks instead of just one—as part of Community’s Buy One, Give One campaign, they’ll donate a mask on your behalf to hospital workers. (Note: these aren’t medical-grade masks; the hospital staff who use them are working in positions where they aren’t dealing with infectious diseases like COVID-19.) I feel pretty helpless given the pandemic and the political upheaval in the US, so being able to donate an affordable, reusable mask for a hospital staffer gives me some sense of purpose.
What migraine-related issues have you uncovered in regards to face coverings/masks?
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?