How To Avoid Face Mask And Face Shield Fatigue And Dizziness
Do masks induce hypoxia or carbon dioxide poisoning? Here are some tips to follow if you’ve been experiencing pains and dizziness because of prolonged face mask use
Staying masked remains to be the most efficient solution in protecting yourself and others from the spread of coronavirus. But many people have been experiencing fatigue and lightheadedness with prolonged mask wearing.
There have been fake information circulating online that wearing masks for a longer period of time may cause hypoxia, where the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply; or carbon dioxide poisoning, due to the fact that the CO2 that you breath gets trapped inside the mask. In the US, former professional baseball player Aubrey Huff also complained about being required to wear a mask, saying that “it's not healthy to breathe in your own CO2 all the time.”
However, these claims have been debunked by scientists and doctors, saying that masks are breathable enough to let oxygen travel freely.
Prof. Keith Neal, an infectious disease expert tells BBC: “Thin paper or cloth masks will not lead to hypoxia. Surgeons operate for hours wearing them. They don't get these problems.”
He also explains that CO2 molecules are tiny enough—tinier than the droplets that masks are meant to stop from exiting—so they won’t be trapped inside a breathable mask.
So what’s really causing the dizziness and fatigue when wearing masks? We break down the facts and share some tips to help you wear your mask correctly and more comfortably.
If you’re finding it hard to breathe, it may be your mask.
Dr. Scott Segal of Wake Forest Baptist Health tells WFMY News that some tight-fitting masks made with non-breathable materials may be causing the dizziness. He says that when buying cloth masks, choose fabrics with thicker yarns, tighter weaves, and higher threat counts. Avoid synthetic materials because those are generally less breathable and hotter to wear.
In our experience, those made from silk or abel material are so much more breathable.
It may be a psychological reaction
"In many cases, it may simply be an anxious reaction to the resistance to breathing one may feel when wearing a mask. If someone hyperventilates a bit, headache and lightheadedness may follow, which would be promptly relieved upon removing it and returning to normal breathing," says Dr. Scott. So in these circumstances, just get away, remove your mask, and regain your breath for a while.
It may be dehydration
If you’re wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time, you’ll find that you may be hydrating yourself less because of the hassle that you have to go through to drink water. Especially when it’s hot, dehydration is becomes common and it first appears in the form of headache and dizziness. In this case, Ohio Health suggests to set a timer on your phone or your smart watch to remind yourself to drink water every now and then.
It may be mechanical fatigue
Mechanical side effects of wearing a mask include pain and irritation in the ear area, due to the tight nature of elastics used in cloth masks, or because of the prolonged pulling sensation from surgical masks. To remedy this, try using ear savers, which help pull the ear loops away from your ears. For a DIY solution, you may also use ribbons or scrap fabric you have at home. You may also opt to buy a mask that comes with adjustable ear loops.
Check out our list of recommended ear savers below.
Try this breathing protocol and take mask-off breaks
PN Medical, a company providing respiratory education and solutions for over 40 years, recommends this breathing protocol:
- Perform “five quality breaths” prior to putting on a mask, immediately after putting it on, and when it is removed to prevent being locked into a dysfunctional breathing pattern. A “quality breath” is four seconds of breathing in through the nose, six seconds of exhaling through the mouth and pausing two seconds before repeating.
- Take longer, slower breaths while wearing a mask.
- If you must wear a mask for an extended period, take regular breathing breaks, removing the mask when safe and practicing the five quality breaths protocol above.
Face shields and masks interfere with my glasses
There are two types of face shields: the ones that go on your ear like glasses, and the one that goes around your forehead with an elastic band. If you’re wearing glasses, it’s better to opt for the shield that goes around your head so you’re not adding additional pressure on your ears.
Some have also customized their glasses-type face shields so they can mount the shield cover on their glasses instead. Watch this adorable little girl as she demonstrates how she did it.
If you’re noticing some fogging in your glasses when you’re wearing a face mask, it’s also because the air goes up from your mouth into the glasses. To stop this, make sure to get a mask with a nose adjustment wire so you can tighten it at the bridge of the nose. Doing this will push the air out from the sides or the bottom of the mask instead.