August 21, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 23—COVID-19 annoyances, and helping essential workers

There are many measures to take to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. While those steps are a must, they can also make life a little annoying. But there are ways to keep the foggy glasses and mask acne at bay, say IU researchers. For those trying to prevent fogged glasses due to wearing a mask, Christopher Clark, a lecturer at the IU School of Optometry, says the problem lies is with what type of mask you are wearing. Clark says masks with wire holders at the top, like a surgical mask, are better because you can get a tighter seal at the top to keep that humidity from rising and making your lenses foggy. The best fix, he adds, is to put on a mask, form it to your face, and put your glasses on last. And carry a cleaning cloth to wipe down lenses regularly. Another inconvenience of constantly wearing a mask is acne. Lawrence Mark, an associate professor of dermatology at IU, says when a mask rubs against the skin and causes friction, it can lead to acne in those areas. This irritation, or acne mechanica, can disrupt the hair follicles where your oil glands are and cause “maskne”. Mark says a good face wash can prevent hair follicles from getting plugged. Chemical peelers, like over-the-counter salicylic acid acne washes or benzoyl peroxide washes, can help keep the follicles stay open, and a good a light lubricant can help reduce the friction caused by the mask. But be careful, Mark says, not to use too heavy a moisturizer. And, Marks says, make sure to wash masks regularly. In addition to washing masks, people are washing their hands more than ever before, which can lead to very dry skin. Mark says lots of moisturizer is the key. While it's probably not feasible to use lotions each time you wash your hands, try to use them several times a day, Mark says. Although foggy glasses and maskne are inconveniences, Clark and Mark say they are not an excuse to not practice safety measures.

In other news, many behavioral health providers delivering care during the COVID-19 pandemic face a challenge – experiencing the same fears as their clients while still providing necessary support. That is why Patrick Sullivan and Carol Hostetter of the IU School of Social Work are working with the supervisors of frontline behavioral health workers to identify the best way to help these workers deal with the trauma of providing services during this time. As COVID-19 began to spread, behavioral health care providers had to change the way they were doing business, switching quickly from a face-to-face counseling model to telehealth, which they may have had little or no previous experience or training in doing. At the same time, Sullivan points out that these providers are dealing with their own fears about their health and family. To help mental health providers address this conflict, Sullivan and Hostetter are conducting in-depth telephone interviews with supervisors at Centerstone, a not-for-profit health system that provides mental health and substance use disorder treatments. Sullivan says supervisors are being asked to share their employees’ experiences during the pandemic and what types of topics their staff brings to supervisory sessions. Sullivan and his team hope to identify ways supervisors can be more supportive of staff while they also deal with changes to business operations. The researchers are looking to identify what tactics have been helpful for supervisors of mental health providers as the pandemic continues.