Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the public is now being asked to wear face masks in order to help prevent the spread of the virus. However, it is not as easy as we think because some people say that wearing a face mask is reducing their oxygen intake.
Wearing a mask forces them to breathe in their own carbon dioxide, making them feel light-headed, faint, or smothered. Some people are worried about how dangerous it is for the body when little oxygen is being inhaled.
Wearing face masks
Posts about people fainting due to face masks being worn for too long has circulated online. But is it true that wearing a face mask causes CO2 build-up that can result in someone passing out? Carbon dioxide is the product of the body's respiration process, but is it harmful?
According to the National Institutes of Health or NIH, there are rare cases wherein it is dangerous. Inhaling high levels of carbon dioxide or CO2 is life-threatening.
As described by Healthline, hypercapnia or carbon dioxide toxicity can cause vertigo, headache, inability to concentrate, double vision, hearing a buzzing or ringing noise, seizures, or suffocation. However, this only happens when you inhale high levels of CO2.
According to Bill Carroll, Ph.D., a professor at Indiana University, CO2 is present in the atmosphere at level 0.04%. It is dangerous in an atmosphere when it is above 10%. It is also possible to have too little carbon dioxide.
Dr. Carroll says that it happens when you exhale too fast or too often. If you hold your breath, you get too much CO2. The core issue is that CO2 regulates the pH of the blood, so too much CO2 and the blood immediately becomes too acidic and too little CO2 means that the blood becomes too basic.
The body detects the change in acidity whatever the case is, and you pass out, which is a way of your body telling you to breathe normally. When it comes to face masks, they are not made equally.
The extent to which a face mask could affect the CO2 levels depend on what the mask is made of and how tightly the mask fits your face.
What to wear and how to wear it
According to Kelli Randell, MD, a medical advisor and internist at Aeroflow Healthcare, prolonged use of any face mask has not been shown to cause CO2 toxicity in healthy individuals.
Dr. Randell stated that breathing can be difficult if you are wearing a mask, so he recommended that people who are suffering from respiratory diseases to consider the kind of face mask that they are going to use.
There is no need for the public to wear an N95 respirator as they reserved for those who work in the medical field. It is a part of their personal protective equipment or PPE that is created to protect them and the patients that they care for.
The general public can wear either cloth face coverings or surgical masks. Cloth face coverings and surgical masks can let you breathe better.
Make sure that the mask covers your mouth and your nose and that it is not loose. It should not be so tight that you can't breathe properly anymore. If you still feel uncomfortable, you may consider other causes such as panic attack or anxiety that triggers sudden feelings of breathlessness.