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What Are Nose Masks?

woman wearing a mask over her nose while she eats

Reuters

Key Takeaways

  • Researchers in Mexico have created “nose masks” to cover your nose while you eat.
  • The inventors say they may help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Doctors aren’t sure how much protection this will actually offer.

Wearing a mask when you’re around people from outside your household is an important way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. But it can be tough to wear a mask in every situation, including when you’re eating.

So, researchers in Mexico have come up with a solution: nose masks. These masks fit snugly around your nose, leaving your mouth free for eating and drinking.

The masks were designed by researchers at the National Polytechnic Institute to try to help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But…what? Here’s what you need to know about nose masks.

Nose Mask Basics

A nose mask is a mask that fits snugly around your nose. It’s secured in place with elastic, and looks a lot like a regular face mask—just smaller.

The masks were designed by scientist Gustavo Acosta Altamirano, who recognized a need for protection, even when people are eating and drinking.

Altamirano and a team of fellow researchers designed the masks as a barrier to block out aerosols less than 5 microns in size. By using a nose mask, “it will be possible to have greater protection, especially when it is difficult to maintain a healthy distance in restaurants, long-term flights, or dental appointments,” he said in a press release. 

The masks aren’t available to the general public just yet, but the researchers are working with a manufacturer to widely distribute them.

Current CDC Recommendations

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a face mask to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

The CDC says that a face mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly against your face. The CDC suggests using a mask with a metal nose wire to help get a close fit, checking that it fits closely against your nose, mouth, and chin, and ensuring that your mask has at least two layers.

Better Than Nothing?

The National Polytechnic Institute does not say that nose masks should be a substitute for a regular face mask. Instead, they're designed to protect you while eating or drinking, or in other situations where you may not be able to wear a full face mask.

“It is an interesting idea,” Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Verywell. “It is probably better than nothing.”

But infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security points out that no one has quantified how much of SARS-CoV-2 comes from the nose when someone is infected. “A mask that just covers your nose is probably not going to give you very robust protection,” he tells Verywell.

Given how much is unknown about these masks, Watkins says it’s still important for people to take standard COVID-19 precautions and avoid eating in a restaurant until they’re fully vaccinated.

“The effectiveness of the nose mask needs to be further studied,” Watkins says. "But it probably won't hurt and may help” to use something similar if you eat outside your house around other people, he adds.

Adalja agrees. “Something that covers your nose is probably better than nothing, but it’s unclear how much that ‘something’ is,” he says.

What This Means For You

While nose masks are a possible future option to wear when you eat around people from outside your household, it’s unclear at this point how much they’ll protect you from COVID-19. So, do your best to stay spaced out from others when you need to remove your regular face masks.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

 

 

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Polytechnic Institute. IPN creates and patents nasal mask to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. March 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improve how your mask protects you. Updated March 26, 2021