Reasons to Dislike Surgical Masks

swine-flu precautions
Swine-flu precautions; photo by theogeo

Previously, I wrote about how I learned to love (or at least not mind) wearing a surgical mask in Japan when I get sick. In spite of all of the up-sides to wearing a surgical mask, there are still some unpleasant aspects to wearing them as well. This post comes from the fact that I’m still sick and only allow myself to spend time thinking about being sick while being sick. Plentiful pity is welcome. Thanks!

Now, on to the reasons why I think surgical face masks aren’t all good:

1. Effectiveness in preventing sickness uncertain

According to researchers, surgical masks, just called “masuku” in Japanese, can be somewhat effective in preventing the spread of the flu, but whether or not they prevent a wearer from catching the flu isn’t well understood. Serious bummer.

2. Muffles voice

I don’t really talk much, but when I do, I like to know that people can hear me. On top of a snuffy nose, which certainly does nothing to promote voice quality, the mask further muffles utterances. You may as well be talking underwater.

3. Hides smiling and other positive emotions

Smiling is great! In my most humble opinion. When I see a friend or coworker I like, I try to flash a winning smile, as if to say, “I’m not out to get you.” But, with a mask, that message gets lost somewhere along the way, and I fear that the “winning smile” may in fact come out as more of a “squint of discontent.” I promise I am not discontented with anyone!

4. Makes eating difficult

Since one typically eats with the mouth and since face masks typically cover the mouth, when the two are put together, a serious conundrum arises. Should I be considerate and keep the mask on, sneaking bites under the mask? Or should I do as most others do, and just lower or take off the mask to eat, thereby exposing others to my toxic exhalations? Usually hunger and convenience win out, so I sincerely apologize to those I’ve infected.

5. Sometimes uncomfortable

Humans can probably get used to almost any discomfort if given a decent length of time, but that doesn’t mean I want to become used to something. More expensive masks are generally more comfortable, but the cheaper you go, typically the worse the quality. At their best, masks are breathable, warm, and unnoticeable. However, at their worst, they are itchy, damp, and stifling. The logical solution would be to buy high quality masks I’m familiar with, but I’m both forgetful and stingy, so cheap masks it is.


Here’s to hoping that you don’t have a reason to wear a surgical mask this holiday season!

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