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Clinical Report

Face Mask-induced Itch: A Self-questionnaire Study of 2,315 Responders During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jacek C. Szepietowski, Łukasz Matusiak, Marta Szepietowska, Piotr K. Krajewski, Rafał Białynicki-Birula
DOI: 10.2340/00015555-3536


Little is known about itch related to the use of face masks. This internet survey study investigated the prevalence, intensity and clinical characteristics of itch related to the use of face masks by the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 2,315 replies were received, of which 2,307 were included in the final analysis. Of the respondents, 1,393 (60.4%) reported using face masks during the previous week, and, of these, 273 (19.6%) participants reported having itch. Subjects who reported sensitive skin and atopic predisposition, and those with facial dermatoses (acne, atopic dermatitis or seborrhoeic dermatitis) were at significantly higher risk of itch development. The high­est rating of itch for the whole group on the Itch Numeral Rating Scale was 4.07 ± 2.06 (itch of moderate intensity). Responders who wore masks for longer periods more frequently reported itch. Almost 30% of itchy subjects reported scratching their face without removing the mask, or after removing the mask and then scratching. Wearing face masks is linked to development of itch, and scratching can lead to incorrect use of face masks, resulting in reduced protection.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence, intensity and clinical characteristics of face mask-induced itch during the COVID-19 pandemic in the general public wearing face coverings. A Google® Forms Internet survey was filled out by 2,315 Polish students. Of the people who wore face masks (three layers surgical, cloth and respirators), almost 20% reported itch. Sensitive skin, atopic predisposition and facial dermatoses significantly predisposed users to development of itch. The vast majority of subjects reported itch of moderate intensity, and almost 30% of itchy subjects reported scratching their face with­out removing the mask or taking off the mask and then scratching, which would markedly affect the effectiveness of face masks.

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