As the temperature rises this summer, many of us may be faced with a new challenge: Staying cool while wearing face masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of face masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, which primarily travels from person to person through respiratory droplets. However, that mask may be unpleasant when combined with hot, humid summer weather.
While experts recommend you shouldn’t forego a covering for your mouth and nose, there are efforts you can take to help make it a bit more comfortable. Consider these tips from Dr. Robert Kantor, UnitedHealthcare chief medical officer of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, on how to help stay safe with your face mask during the hot summer months:
- Use breathable material
Find a tightly woven mask made of lightweight cloth materials like cotton, silk or mixed polyester. These materials may help you breathe more comfortably while still creating a necessary barrier.
If you don’t want to go out and buy a face mask, consider getting creative with bandanas, old T-shirts or handkerchiefs. Make sure whatever you choose covers both your nose and mouth.
- Make sure it fits
You mask should fit pretty snug, but it shouldn’t be too tight. Making sure your mask fits correctly may be important to help make it more breathable. Consider looking for one with adjustable straps.
- Keep it clean
Wash your mask after every use, especially if it becomes wet from sweating. If you have a mask made of cloth, you can throw it in with your regular laundry cycle. Avoid touching the front of the mask and wash your hands promptly after each use.
- Don’t forget your skin
Take care of your skin too, the moisture build-up from the effects of wearing your mask in hot weather may cause irritation or even acne. Consider skipping makeup under the mask to avoid further clogging your pores and rinse your face after removing it.
- Understand who should not wear a mask
Those who have difficulties breathing should not wear a face mask, especially as heat may exacerbate those issues. Children younger than 2 should also refrain from wearing a mask, as it may be a choking hazard. Additionally, anyone who may be unable to remove a mask without assistance should avoid them.
Even if you find the perfect summer face mask, it’s important to understand the signs of heat illness or heatstroke. Studies show that higher temperatures can increase the frequency of breathing when wearing a mask, as well as potentially influencing a person’s heart rate and thermal stress. Some common symptoms of heat illness may include:
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Racing heart rate
If you experience these symptoms, it may be time to take a break, move to a location where it’s safe to remove your mask and drink plenty of water. If your symptoms are severe, seek immediate medical help.
Remember, face masks are recommended in combination with frequent hand washing and social distancing measures. For more on how to help protect yourself and others, visit the CDC website.