Face Masks and Breathing Issues

A sign about wearing face masks.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, most governments have advised their citizens to wear face masks when they go out. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, most governments have advised their citizens to wear face masks when they go out. This is to ensure that the chances of having the CCP virus being inhaled by people are as low as possible so that the outbreak can eventually be contained. However, there have been some concerns that wearing masks might result in breathing problems.

Breathing issues using face masks

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), inhaling air with high levels of carbon dioxide can threaten a person’s life. In addition to CO2 toxicity, it can trigger dizziness, headaches, double vision, seizures, vertigo, and so on. When you wear a face mask, it will obviously affect your breathing to some extent. However, for any negative effect to occur, the carbon dioxide needs to build up to a pretty high level. Carbon dioxide makes up about 0.04 percent of the atmosphere. To be dangerous, the CO2 buildup must exceed 10 percent of the air.

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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), inhaling air with high levels of carbon dioxide can threaten a person’s life.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), inhaling air with high levels of carbon dioxide can threaten a person’s life. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Breathing in too little carbon dioxide is also dangerous. “If you hold your breath, you wind up with too much CO2. The core issue is that CO2 regulates the pH of the blood — too much CO2 and the blood becomes too acidic; too little and it becomes too basic (alkaline). In either case, your body detects the change in acidity and you pass out, which is the body’s way of saying, ‘please stop fooling with me and breathe normally,’” Bill Carroll, an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, says to Health.

Professor Carroll does not believe that cloth-based face masks pose any risk to the wearer since such masks allow air to go around them as well as through their pores. Even if a person were to tightly fit such a mask, the chances of being deprived of oxygen and inhaling excess CO2 are pretty slim. After all, such a tight mask will often make a person so uncomfortable that they are likely to adjust and loosen it. However, when it comes to N95 respirator masks, things become a bit more complicated.

Some experts believe that N95 masks might alter the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels a person breathes in, thereby triggering changes in blood chemistry in such a way that the person might have difficulty maintaining consciousness. In fact, a driver who crashed his vehicle into a pole in New York claimed that he had passed out due to wearing an N95 mask.

Some experts believe that N95 face masks might alter the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels a person breathes in.
Some experts believe that N95 face masks might alter the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels a person breathes in. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

So if you choose to wear an N95 face mask, it might be safer to remove it from time to time in safe locations so that you can properly breathe for a few minutes. But if you are wearing a cloth-based mask, then it should be okay to wear it for a longer time. The CDC recommends that children under the age of 2 or people who have breathing issues should avoid wearing any kind of mask.

Tips to follow

Ideally, you should dispose of face masks soon after using them. However, this can be impractical for a lot of people. So the best solution is to have a couple of face masks and use them alternately. When you get back home, wash the mask properly with a detergent. If you urgently want to go outside, use the clean, spare mask.

When using detergents, make sure that you use products that are free from enzymes and fragrances, or else you might trigger an allergic reaction. Some people make the mistake of touching the front portion of the mask while taking it off for cleaning. Never do this since the virus can end up on your hands and eventually in your body. Always wear gloves to take off face masks and ensure that the gloves are also washed together with the face mask.

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