And although public officials like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have warned that covering your nose with a mask is just as important as your mouth, the message still hasn’t completely stuck.
“I think there’s multiple reasons why we’re seeing a lot of people’s nose exposed,” said Dr. Todd Ellerin, a Massachusetts-based infectious disease specialist and ABC News medical contributor. “One of the reasons maybe that it’s more comfortable when you’re wearing a mask for a longer period of time. It can be more difficult to breathe than when you have the nose exposed.”
Now a new study is revealing that covering your nose may be just as important as covering your mouth when it comes to protecting yourself from the novel coronavirus.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill mapped locations in the respiratory tract to see where COVID-19 most likely infiltrates the body and found the cells that line the nose were significantly more likely to become infected and spread virus than the throat or lungs.
In addition, they said that part of the reason you could be more likely to get infected through the nose is because COVID-19 infects cells with tiny hairs on them called cilia, which usually helps protects from pathogens.
“The nose is basically the purveyor of all viral ill,” said Dr. Richard Boucher, director of the Marsico Lung Institute/UNC Cystic Fibrosis Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. “The virus appeared to pick the nose as a fertile ground for infection.”
Ellerin called the study “important” and explained that the nasal passage has as many or even more receptors that the virus can use to enter the cell than the throat or in the lungs. Which makes it imperative that people cover their noses, he said.
“It’s imperative for us to mask it as much as possible. Not only outdoors, but as the seasons of changing indoors and especially we want to make sure that the nose is covered because, think about it. The viruses use those receptors in the nose,” said Ellerin. “Think of it as a molecular doorway to enter the cells and that’s the first phase of infection.”