Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes…Mask?

Did you know that letting your nose peek out of your mask puts you almost at as much risk as not wearing a mask at all? Most would not know that.

It’s widely understood that our mouth is the main portal for infectious organisms to exit (sneeze, cough, etc), but also to inhale microorganisms causing illness. BUT! Did you know that new research is showing that COVID-19 actually loves our noses most? It’s true!

Recent research shows that COVID-19 is much more likely to cause significant infection when it enters through the nose vs. the mouth. Our nasal passages are rich with cells that have the right receptor for the COVID virus to attach too. While our lungs also have these cells, they are in much less concentration.

I recently read an article that quoted Robert Kozak, a microbiologist from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and loved his analogy. I have adapted it slightly but think of our nose as a lovely suburban neighbourhood. All houses have front doors, side doors, back doors, garage doors, etc. Lots of ways for our COVID home invader to get in and get out. Our lungs, in contrast, are like high rise condos in the heart of a busy downtown with usually only one door to enter and exit from. The cell receptors in our nasal passage have many more ways for that COVID invader to make us sick.

Make sense, right?! One of the main symptoms of COVID is the loss of smell. Sure, this happens in many respiratory illnesses while we are congested, but it goes away when our congestion does. With COVID-19 it can last for weeks or months after symptoms have resolved.

So, all this to say….make sure your mask covers your nose.

Natalie Goertz

Natalie Goertz holds a BScN (UWO, London, Ontario) and is a registered nurse. She is currently completing a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology. Natalie is certified through the Certification Board of Infection Control and has experience in all levels of health care including a large tertiary health care centre, a large community hospital as well as public health. She has managed an Infection Prevention and Control department in acute care. Natalie has served as co-chair of the IPAC-Canada Surveillance and Epidemiology Interest Group and as President for the IPAC-Canada Southwestern Ontario Chapter. She has extensive knowledge of program development and evaluation for Infection Control Programs, Environmental Services, and Reprocessing Departments and has successfully led these groups through the Accreditation process.  Natalie has experience in conducting, participating, and evaluating research on infection control practices and has presented research findings at national and international conferences including IPAC-Canada, APIC, and SHEA.