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Why Your Throat Is Sore From Wearing A Mask

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Your sore throat could be form a dirty mask.

Here’s the latest from the Cleveland Clinic on what you need to know about having a sore throat while wearing a mask.


Earlier, we had discussed how that you could have COVID sensitivity to the cleaning chemicals used in your home that could possibly mask symptoms and/or cause needless worry. Furthermore, you also learned that by taking a simple “’yes or no” three-question survey, you could find out whether you may be predisposed to having health-related sensitivity issues to chemical inhalants, drugs/medications and foods or food additives.

Do You Have COVID Chemical Sensitivity? Answer These 3 Yes or No Questions to Find Out

However, there’s also another bane of COVID-19 that is adding to our problems and confusing us as what is going on: sore throats while or from, wearing a mask.

Wearing a mask to protect yourself from the coronavirus is uncomfortable to say the least. It can cause your skin to break out, make you hot and fog your glasses, make you feel oxygen deprived and add to your anxiety. But, can it also make you throat feel sore? Or is it due to something else?

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According to a health essentials update from the Cleveland Clinic, users of masks are complaining of sore throats and health experts at the clinic say the problem is most likely due to dirty masks that are not being disposed often enough or cleaned properly for reuse.

However, a sore throat from wearing a mask can occur for a few other reasons.

“Sore throats can be caused by viruses, bacteria or environmental irritants. They could also be caused by vocal strain (using your voice too much), dry air, or a condition called gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD,” explains family medicine physician Dr. Neha Vyas, who also stated that people with weakened immune systems, allergy sufferers and those who use their voices often may be especially prone to having a sore throat.

But if you don’t fall within this group, the chances are pretty good your sore throat is a matter of lack of cleanliness from bad mask habits.

“…it may be from viruses or germs residing in unwashed or unclean masks, either from using them frequently without washing them or taking them on and off with unclean hands, said Dr. Vyas.”

Keeping It Clean, Mask Measures

As such, here’s a summary of what the Cleveland Clinic recommends on what you should be doing toward keeping your mask clean as a preventive measure against suffering from a sore throat while wearing one.

1. Make sure to have clean hands whenever you put on or take off a mask. Just as you can transfer germs to your body by touching your face, you can bypass the security of a mask by handling it with contaminated fingers.

"Cross contamination occurs when someone touches under their mask or touches someone or a surface (a door handle, a box or can in the grocery store) and then touches their mask. Don’t reach for a product in the store and then reach up and adjust your mask. Avoid reaching under your mask if you have an itch," Dr. Ruth L. Bush, associate dean of medical education and a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine, stated for a Today news article on how to wear a face mask correctly.

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2. When using your clothes washer, if it’s not the disposable type of mask you can wash it with the rest of your laundry by using regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask. If you have sensitive skin, use a mild detergent. Cleaning of disposable masks is not recommended for the public due to it takes specialized sanitizing equipment to clean the disposable mask without disrupting its integrity and thereby, protective properties.

3. If you wash your mask by hand, make sure you use the right type of bleach. While most bleach brands will disinfect, some are designed for colored clothing and might not thoroughly clean your mask of germs.

Per the CDC, the Cleveland Clinic recommends these caveats to using bleach:

• Use bleach only in a well-ventilated area.

• Use only bleaches containing 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite and mix it with room temperature water. Don’t use a bleach product if the percentage is not in this range or is not specified.

• Don’t use bleach that is past its expiration date and never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

• Mix either: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) of 5.25%–8.25% bleach in per gallon of room temperature water or 4 teaspoons of 5.25%–8.25% bleach in per quart of room temperature water.

• Soak your masks in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.

• Discard the bleach solution down the drain and rinse your masks thoroughly with cool or room temperature water.

• Be sure to completely dry your masks after washing. When using a dryer, use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry. When air drying, lay the mask flat and allow it to completely dry. If possible, place the mask in direct sunlight.

The Latest on Home-Made Masks

If you are finding it hard to keep yourself stocked with disposable masks and not sure if some of the commercials ones are really effective, follow the link below to find out what the latest research has found about reusable masks that you can make in your home.

New Study Reports The Best COVID-19 Mask Material Is In Many Homes

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Willfried Wende from Pixabay

Reference:Can You Get a Sore Throat From Wearing a Dirty Mask?” Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials 23 September 2020.