Dangers of wearing masks in the heat and humidity

Coronavirus

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — News 5 investigates the dangers of wearing masks to protect against coronavirus in the Gulf Coast heat. It’s already hot outside and with summer only a month away, it’s going to get hotter. One pulmonologist and critical care physician with Infirmary Health Diagnostic and Medical Clinic is concerned the masks will make adults, children, athletes, and especially those already diagnosed with pulmonary or cardiac illnesses more susceptible to breathing difficulty and heat stroke.

So because wearing masks is still very important right now to help stop the spread of COVID-19, you have to pay very close attention to your body this summer as the temperatures keep climbing.

“You add heat, humidity, probably months of more physical inactivity than usual because of social isolation and distancing, and now you mask up. It’s certainly going to make it a lot more difficult to breathe which can lead to further respiratory complications,” said Dr. Adrian DiVittorio.

You also have a better chance of overheating when you’re wearing a mask when it’s this hot outside.

“Our body has several methods and mechanisms on how we can cool ourselves down, sweating, etc. But one of them is through breathing out hot air. So if we’re increasing our work of breathing because we’re breaking through a mask in the heat and the humidity and then were unable to exhale hot air then certainly overheating can occur.,” said Dr. DiVittorio.

There are several symptoms you should watch for.

“If the symptoms of heat stroke or overheating or respiratory difficulties such as severe tiredness, very fast heart rate, severe panting then absolutely take the mask off, sit down and try to cool down. Take a few breaths.,” Dr. DiVittorio said.

If you have to be outside in the heat and humidity especially during this time when wearing masks is the recommendation, taking breaks and staying hydrated may be more important than ever. You can start conditioning your body now, before it gets hotter.

“The general recommendation that I give all my patients irrespective of what’s going on in the world with respect to wearing masks is 30 minutes of daily moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. You know we still advocate the use of masks, social isolation and distancing and the guidelines that we’ve recommended, they are working,” said Dr. DiVittorio.

He says if your face mask gets wet from sweating, it’s basically like having a wet towel over your face and it will make breathing even more difficult, so you really do need to have a backup mask or other face covering. He also says he knows of at least two incidences of young children overheating due to playing outside while wearing masks, so parents, please keep a very close eye on your little ones.

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