Keeping Your Nose Clean

Covering your mouth and nose really does help stop the spread of COVID-19 and, we now know, protects ourselves most of all.

Actor and comedian Steve Martin, playing Cyrano de Bergerac, had the right take on the pandemic: ‘It’s not the size of the nose that matters, it’s what’s inside that counts’ ! Our noses are especially efficient at spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which means that keeping them covered in public will reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Noses and COVID-19

Respiratory droplets are formed and propelled when talking, singing, laughing, and coughing, but also simply by breathing. Most of us breathe mainly through our noses, which smell, warm and humidify air, and filter out microbes and debris from the air. But, unfortunately, they also provide a good landing place for the coronavirus, which invades cells in the nose more than the mouth and throat. When the SARS-CoV-2 virus invades our nose, it migrates to the lungs to cause COVID-19. However, some virus remains in our nose, and when we exhale, we release it into the air. 

When we’re sitting quietly, reading, or working or even playing on our mobile phones, most of us keep our mouths closed and breathe through our noses. If we breathe through our noses. But without a mask, it’s double trouble, because the virus can enter and infect you, and you can then spread the virus to others, even when you don’t feel sick. 

Covering our noses is key to avoiding catching and spreading COVID-19. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that cloth and surgical masks protect the wearers, as well as others, from becoming severely ill by reducing the dose of virus they inhale. 

Masks Are Uncomfortable

It’s not fun wearing a mask – especially in the summer. They’re not only uncomfortable, but they can be downright irritating. It’s annoying to carry a mask with us all the time, it gets hot under the mask, can cause rashes and acne, it fogs up glasses, makes it difficult to chat, and sometimes, it feels oppressive and smothering. 

The discomfort of wearing a mask makes it tempting to remove it – against the rules of course in places like grocery stores and public transportation. Some people wear their masks under their chins, which, sadly, is no better than no mask at all, and many others slip the mask below their noses thinking that they can quickly move it up to avoid getting caught and fined, especially on public transportation. But this is far more serious than that: This is not about ‘not getting fined’, it’s about protecting ourselves and others, defeating COVID-19, and getting back to normal life.

Where and How to Wear a Mask

In Austria, we must wear masks in grocery stores and public transport. But ideally, you should also consider wearing masks in places where the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission is high, such as in poorly ventilated indoor areas, especially with dense person-to-person contact. 

But you must wear it correctly, by covering your nose and mouth. Check out my article in April for a refresher: Why Face Masks Matter – And How to Wear Them’  

When Others Aren’t Doing It Right 

When you’re wearing a mask properly despite being uncomfortable, it’s frustrating to see others who are not. But we can – and should – ask them as kindly as possible to wear them properly.  For those not wearing them, we can offer them the extra mask we just happen to have in our bag. We need to reinforce and remind people that their actions have an impact.

Masks will help stop this pandemic. A little discomfort is a small price to pay. 

Dr. Michelle Epstein
Michelle Epstein is a medical doctor graduated from the University of Alberta in Canada, who has specialised in Internal Medicine at the University of British Columbia and Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Yale University. Since 2004, she has been a Lab Leader at the Medical University of Vienna’s Division of Immunology.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


RECENT Articles

Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | Higher Unemployment

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

Transylvania | Over the River and Through the Woods

With a total area of over 100,000 km2, modern day Transylvania is the largest region of Romania, and, by itself, larger than Austria.

More Current Than Ever, Nina Simone – Four Women Brings Down the House at ...

A stellar cast and memorable songs transports the Civil Rights movement to the #BlackLivesMatter era

Election Fever in Vienna

As the city prepares to go to the polls, the streets are plastered with party propaganda posters. Michael Ludwig will almost certainly remain mayor, but his potential partners are pitching for a piece of power.

Trump Praises Austrian “Forest Cities” With Exploding Trees

With some highly unusual comments meant to put California’s environmental management in a bad light, the U.S. president set off a twitter storm of mockery and once again exposed his ignorance of the world.

Hometown Explorers

As travel restrictions eviscerate Vienna’s hospitality sector, the city’s tour guides show locals the oddities, hidden spots and secrets of the city they call home.


Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.

We Provide Our Corona Coverage for Free

But We Need Your Support!

Did you know that fewer than 2 out of a 100 people who read this article every day are subscribers?

We are proud to serve Vienna’s international community. Without your help, we won’t be able to do so for much longer. 


Subscribe now!

Benjamin Wolf, 

Managing Editor & COO