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In hot countries can wearing masks suffocate people? Is there an alternative?

Update

Masks may cause an increase in your body temperature, but there is no evidence to suggest that cloth masks will cause suffocation (a struggle to breathe or get enough oxygen). In addition to social distancing measures, cloth masks are recommended for the general public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even in hot climates. It is important to use a fabric mask that allows you to breathe comfortably while talking and walking. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask for increased protection. For safety, masks should not be worn by children under the age of two, by people who have trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. It is not known if face shields alone provide protection against COVID-19, and they are not recommended as an alternative to face masks.

This article was published on
February 17, 2021

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What our experts say

Masks may cause an increase in your body temperature, but there is no evidence to suggest that cloth masks will cause suffocation (a struggle to breathe or get enough oxygen). In addition to social distancing measures, cloth masks are recommended for the general public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even in hot climates. It is important to use a fabric mask that allows you to breathe comfortably while talking and walking. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask for increased protection. For safety, masks should not be worn by children under the age of two, by people who have trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. It is not known if face shields alone provide protection against COVID-19, and they are not recommended as an alternative to face masks.

Context and background

New policies around the world require people to wear masks. The point of these rules is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between people when they speak, laugh, cough or sneeze. However, the more rules requiring mask wearing are established, the more false claims about the dangers of masks wearing circulate on social media. There is now substantial scientific evidence supporting mask wearing. The evidence shows that face masks are safe, do not cause suffocation or difficulty breathing if worn correctly, and should be worn by most people. For special groups like children under the age of two or people who struggle to breathe in general, they should speak to their doctors about how to protect themselves from the virus if they are unable to wear masks. The World Health Organization suggests all non-healthcare professionals wear cloth masks, maintain your distance from others, and wash your hands frequently to prevent spreading or becoming infected with COVID-19.

Resources

  1. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis, 2020 (Lancet)
  2. Q&A: Masks and COVID-19 (WHO)
  3. Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings (US CDC)
  4. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks (WHO)
  5. Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021 (U.S. CDC)

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