COVID-19 precautions: Wearing mask in summer can be difficult; here's how to manage hot and humid days during the pandemic
Wearing a mask in the midst of rising temperatures and humidity levels can leave most people struggling for breath.
By now, everyone knows that wearing masks or face covers and following social distancing norms are the two most effective non-pharmaceutical ways to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, while it’s common knowledge that wearing masks is of the utmost importance — and that making mistakes while wearing masks or face covers is as dangerous as not disinfecting them after every use — wearing these protective layers can be quite difficult given the summer heat in India.
Wearing a mask in the midst of rising temperatures and humidity levels can leave most people struggling for breath. It throws the no-face touching rule out of the window because how else are you supposed to wipe off the trickling beads of sweat threatening to enter your eyes?
The dangers of wearing a mask for long periods
Although not in the context of COVID-19, a study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology in 2019 revealed that both in-mask humidity and temperature can rapidly increase after putting on a mask or respirator. So, when you keep a mask on for a long time and the exhaled breath inside the mask can raise the temperature and humidity. High in-mask temperature is linked to lung inflammation, the study says.
Now, if in-mask temperature and humidity rise can affect the lungs in the long run, one can easily expect an external rise in both these factors at the same time to only make matters worse. The effect on lungs apart, this could likely lead to heat rashes, dehydration and heat exhaustion as well.
Tips to deal with heat and humidity with a mask on
So now, wearing masks or face covers, keeping them clean and storing them carefully does not seem to be enough. One needs to take steps to ensure that you can protect yourself from COVID-19, high heat and humidity simultaneously. The following tips may help with this.
1. Pick the time: The best thing you can do is to not be outdoors during the peak hours of heat and humidity. Limit your trips to early morning and evenings. This might not be possible at all times, but it will reduce the risks of overheating to an extent.
2. Choose the right mask: Instead of choosing masks or face covers made of synthetic fibres, pick ones made of triple-layered 100 percent cotton fabric. Cotton is one of the most breathable fabrics, can endure both heat and humidity, and has been recently proved to provide safety from COVID-19.
3. Carry spares: Carry multiple masks and face covers — and carry them safely in separate disinfected plastic bags — so that you can change to a fresh one when the one you’re wearing becomes too wet due to sweat. You should also carry clean and disinfected kerchiefs or disposable wipes and use them with the utmost care and precautions to wipe off the sweat from your face when needed.
4. Stay hydrated: Both high temperature and humidity levels can be severely dehydrating, so it’s very important to drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables with high water content, and avoid beverages that are dehydrating, like caffeine and alcohol. This will help maintain your body’s temperature when you’re wearing a mask.
5. Take a break (in extreme cases): If you’re wearing the mask and there’s nobody around — or if people are maintaining proper social distancing norms — then you can carefully detach the mask from one ear, take a few deep breaths, and then carefully put the mask back on or change into a new one. This is only for extreme situations when you feel dizzy or any other symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion show up because removing a mask like this increases your chances of exposure to the virus.
For more information, read our article on How useful are masks against COVID-19?
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