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Wear The Gown: Using essential oils to improve mask comfort

University Health System physicians say each scent offers a unique effect.

SAN ANTONIO — Over the past few months most of us have gotten used to wearing masks, whether it is in the grocery store, outside, or for some at all times, and in many cases it just isn't comfortable.

Dr. Jan Patterson, the Medical Director of the Integrative Medicine Program and an Infectious Disease Physician at University Health System, and Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, spoke to KENS 5 about the study among UHS where they found essential oils to improve mask comfort.

"When COVID happened we realized we had to shift some of our focus to the staff with universal masking which we are very grateful for because it helps us protect each other," she said. "We started in early April with our hospital staff and went to different departments. We are doing both clinical staff and non-clinical staff. More recently we’ve open it up to patients, some of our patients who are in the clinics who are here for quite a while for infusions and so forth. We would like to try it and see if it makes a difference for them as well."

Rebekah Kendrick, a nurse specializing in pain management told us, "People are feeling different effects from wearing these all day so we wanted to offer them something that might alleviate some of those complaints. Essential oils are really becoming a new thing, so there’s new interest in it."

Some of the most common mask complaints include anxiety, fatigue, poor mental focus, headaches, and shortness of breath. Dr. Patterson said, "We know that essential oils, not only do they smell good, but they can affect us very positively in terms of our mood."

The oils go directly to the brain through the olfactory nerve or smell nerve, and they can also affect the respiratory system by opening up the lungs, making breathing easier. The doctors say each scent does something different. 

The doctors told us, "Lavender would be great for that to help alleviate some of the anxiety with that and mental focus. The orange oil, we call it happy oil, which is a very happy and calming oil. The lemon oil is brightening and cleansing. People get their headaches relieved through peppermint oil and it can help with mental focus fatigue and breathing. Eucalyptus it's a strong oil we like to say it opens the mind as well as the lungs."

Dr. Patterson spoke about how you apply the oil and said, "Once we choose an oil we simply get a very small drop and put it on the outer edge of the inner mask."

But the ones you get online could be stronger and have a more pleasant effect than the ones you get at the grocery store

 Dr. Patterson said, "The ones you get at the grocery store or drugstore or at a lower price point, so sometimes they are diluted and have synthetics in them but you may still get a positive affect. We wanted to use some very pure oils that are what we call therapeutic grade, because we think it has a better affect because they are purer and they last longer.

 Dr. Kendrick added, "We have a lot of different options that can help make it a little more of a pleasant experience."

Dr. Patterson also told us how the study they are conducting works. She said, "The survey simply ask things like what’s bothering you and how is the mask affecting your anxiety level your mood your fatigue your mental focus. We go through that survey and we help them choose an essential oil that we think is best for them."

Make sure to start with one drop and if you need more add one at a time.

For more information about family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.

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