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I am often asked where I got my respirator mask when I share pictures of myself in it. I have even had people stop me and ask in public places. It’s not always easy to navigate the respirator mask market and I did a lot of asking other people when I first began wearing them, too. There are a lot of things to consider and I felt pretty confused by all of the choices at first. It’s really not as intimidating as it first appears, but it can make a huge difference in one’s health when struggling with a mast cell or autoimmune disorder, so I wanted to share the best mask I’ve found thus far for people like myself who would benefit greatly from their use.
Why Wear a Mask?
Some underestimate just how effective these masks can be at protecting a person with an MCAD, but if you get one with the right specification, they can really afford you much more freedom when some of your triggers are airborne. With my Vogmask securely in place, I got to enjoy a wonderful New Years Eve out with my husband for the first time since we got together. It’s been years since I’ve been able to walk into a formal function without going down hill fast; The noxious cloud of cologne at such events is unreal.
It’s much the same anytime I try to walk into a mall, a grocery store, a pharmacy. They all have cleaning products, air fresheners, colognes, body products, candles, essential oils and other scented products that can cause a wide variety of allergic reactions for me. If it’s not the lady wearing way too much Chanel 5, then there are plenty of other things more than happy to take me down in the modern world.
Except for the coldest winter months, I never leave my house without my mask strapped on securely. It only takes a couple of minutes of exposure during a high pollen time before I’m wheezing and begging for my inhaler and some benadryl. If you have a mast cell activation disorder, you know these apparent symptoms are just the beginning. After an exposure, I am severely fatigued, ache all over, often get terrible headaches or migraines, become more sensitive to light, sound and touch and experiencing intense anxiety and sometimes depression as a result. Being a trifecta zebra, it can flare up my other conditions, making my joint dislocations increase exponentially in the days just after exposure.
With a respirator mask, I can avoid all of those triggers without giving up on life beyond my own front door. I can run my own errands, do my own grocery shopping when my symptoms allow. Sure, I’m still sick and need to take tons of allergy meds, but with my mask, I get to enjoy much more stability and trips out of my house no longer cost me days to recover.
It can sometimes be mildly uncomfortable to wear a mask. Some people stare momentarily, but for the most part people are really just too self-involved to give a damn about why I have a mask strapped to my face. What makes me more uncomfortable these days is how hot and sweaty it can sometimes get and the 2 minute ordeal I go through every time I strap it on because it tends to raise the hackles on my claustrophobia. I suspect a mask with dual exhalation vales will mitigate some of this.
Choosing the Right Mask
Masks are a great way of mitigating exposure for people with MCAS, Mastocytosis, histamine intolerance, severe allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity and other forms of mast cell activation disorder. They’re also good for people with compromised immune systems, as they cut down quite a bit on the spread of airborne germs. For these at risk groups, masks should be capable of blocking the smallest particulates possible. Choosing an N95 NIOSH certified mask is a good way to go, but there are masks that don’t specifically state whether or not they meet this standard that actually go beyond it and Vogmasks are among them. They were designed to be used in cities with air quality problems and they do a great job of protecting you from exposure to many airborne particulates.
They’re also reasonably comfortable, much more so than the disposables I began with (which work just fine if that’s what you prefer). I love that they are washable and last approximately 2 years depending on wear and environmental exposure. In the long run, this makes them a lot more affordable than disposable masks and definitely more ecologically sound.
Vogmasks come clean quite easily, even if you get makeup on them. They simply need to be washed with dish soap and air dried on occasion, but should not be put in the washing machine or dryer. If you aren’t crazy about the earloops, they have a hook you add to make a strap around your entire head, or you can easily modify yours by adding some elastic in place of the loops.
Vogmasks offer superior protection; PM 2.5 particles in air pollution and other microscopic airborne contaminants, regardless of whether you choose a VMVC (single exhalation valve) or the VMV2C (with dual exhalation vales). Vogmasks all come with adjustable nose clips to help ensure proper placement and prevention of leaks that might fog up glasses.
When choosing your mask, you want to make sure you get the right size to avoid gaping and ensure a proper fit so you are exposed to the least amount of airborne particles possible. I have a large, which is recommended for most adults:
SIZE GUIDE ~ Measure from bridge of nose to bottom of chin: SMALL – under 9 cm (3.55 inches) | MEDIUM – up to 10 cm (3.95 inches) | LARGE – over 10.16 cm (4 inches). Most adults wear Large.
So Many Styles…
There are many Vogmask patterns and colors to choose from, but stock varies quite a lot. Here are the listings of currently available masks in both styles:
8 VMVC Vogmasks in Sizes S-L– This set includes the very popular zebra print, however it was only available in small when last I checked, but this listing will get you to all 8 of the above styles in all sizes available.
Vogmask VMVC in 8 styles, sizes M-L – These are the exact same masks as above, only in more styles.
5 VMV2C Vogmasks in Sizes S-L – This listing is for the masks with dual exhalation valves in solids colors, as shown above. One of these will likely be my next mask, for those days I want something a little less obvious.