ENT: masks favorable for mucous membranes

Mouth and nose covers are an important part of containing the coronavirus. But some believe the masks are harmful to them. The opposite is true - if at all

Several experts believe that wearing an everyday mask or medical face mask does not pose any health risks. Quite the opposite, says the ENT doctor Bernhard Junge-Hülsing from Starnberg. The air you breathe remains warmer under the mask. "In principle, you care for the mucous membranes because you protect them from drying out with cold air or heating air."

This is similar to the principle of the humid chamber, which is used for dry nasal mucous membranes or problems with nosebleeds. "Then it is recommended to close the nostril with a plug, for example. This allows the mucous membrane to recover."

Reinfections unlikely

According to the ENT specialist, there are also unfounded concerns that you are more prone to renewed infection because you keep breathing in germs through the barrier in front of your mouth. "You don't have to fear reinfections." This applies to medical mouth and nose covers as well as to everyday masks made of cotton.

The German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) also sees no health risk from masks. At the moment there is no information available from the employers' liability insurance associations and accident insurance companies, according to which wearing mouth and nose covers made of textile fabric affects breathing to a "health-endangering" degree.

No danger to children and adolescents

With a view to younger people, the professional association of paediatricians explains: Surgical or everyday masks may be a little uncomfortable for children. But they neither restricted breathing nor did they lead to a restricted oxygen supply or even a "dangerous enrichment" of carbon dioxide.

The association has no concerns about wearing masks for healthy children aged ten and over. Children aged six and over can wear them, but should be able to take them off at any time.

Many perceive the long duration of wearing the masks as a problem, for example at work or at school. From a health point of view, this is not a problem: "Surgeons operate for twelve hours with mouth and nose protection and get old," says ENT doctor Junge-Hülsing. The fact that breathing through the mask appears uncomfortable and difficult at some point is mainly due to psychological reasons - and it occurs above all when you have to talk a lot or do a lot of physical effort.

Breathe calmly, take breaks from mask

He has two pieces of advice. First: If it seems to be more difficult to breathe, it is important to breathe calmly and in a controlled manner and not greedily suck in air. Second: take breaks from the mask.

In schools, for example, Junge-Hülsing recommends reducing the duration of the hours from 45 to 40 minutes in order to be able to ventilate longer during the short breaks. The windows should be open for eight to ten minutes. The pupils can use the time to take off their masks briefly in the school yard, of course by far.

The DGUV has recommendations for working people: For “moderate physical work”, the mask should be worn for a maximum of two hours at a time. Then you should take them off for half an hour. The DGUV clarifies that this does not mean a break, but rather a time to relax from the mask. In light work, three hours of uninterrupted wearing of a mask are justifiable.

About the person: Bernhard Junge-Hülsing has had an ENT doctor's practice in Starnberg for 20 years. The 56-year-old is chairman of the Bavarian regional group in the German professional association of ear, nose and throat doctors.