Can Facemasks Cause Hypoxia?

Can facemasks cause hypoxia
Can facemasks cause hypoxia?

After the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the whole world, there has been precautionary measures taken by governments to alleviate the spread. These measures includes the closures of public places, travel bans, social distancing rules, lockdown and strict use of facemasks by the public.

Therefore, the use of facemasks has become a regular part of our daily life. Since the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria, many facemasks have been used by the populace to protect themselves from coronavirus. Some types of facemasks include the N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, and cloth masks. A lot of people have had questions about facemasks, one of which is: Can facemasks cause hypoxia?

In this article, we aim to comprehensively answer that question. Read on to find out if facemasks can cause hypoxia.


How facemasks protect you from coronavirus

A face mask helps you cover your mouth and nose, so it can block the respiratory droplets (that may be filled with the virus) into the air when you cough or sneeze. This helps curb the spread of COVID-19.

What is Hypoxia?

Can facemasks cause hypoxia

Hypoxia is the absence of oxygen in the body tissues to sustain the body. It occurs as a result of hypoxemia (low oxygen in your blood), although, the word hypoxia is sometimes used to describe both conditions.

The causes of hypoxia include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Strong pain medications
  • Heart diseases
  • Asthma attack
  • Anaemia (a low number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen)
  • Cyanide poisoning

The symptoms of hypoxia include:

  • Dizziness
  • Changes in the color of your skin (usually from blue to purple)
  • Confusion
  • Coughing
  • Faster heart rate (sometimes there’s slow heart rate)
  • Increased breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Wheezing.
Can facemasks cause hypoxia
Can facemasks cause hypoxia?

Can facemasks cause hypoxia?

Some social media users have been sharing content which suggests that prolonged use of facemasks can cause hypoxia. They claim that using facemasks for a long period will lead to reduced intake of oxygen in the body and subsequently hypoxia. Nigerian newspaper, Vanguard supported these claims.

However, from what you have learned above about the causes of hypoxia, you will see that prolonged deprivation of sufficient oxygen is not one of the causes of hypoxia. Hypoxia is often as a result of underlying medical conditions such as anaemia, asthma or other lung diseases. It could also occur if someone travels to high altitudes and trigger lowered partial pressure of oxygen in inhaled air in their body.

Hence, to answer the question: can facemasks cause hypoxia? I will say that it is mostly false.

The truth is, any effect of a mask on its wearer will depend on the wearer’s current health if he or she has any pre-existing respiratory illnesses, the type of mask he or she uses, and the length of time the person wears it.

Furthermore, if someone were to wear a cloth facemask for a prolonged period of time, he or she would breathing difficulties, sometimes dizziness and fatigue, but not hypoxia.

Also, it is unlikely that someone who is not a health worker will wear a facemask for a long duration.

Important Health Tips for Using Facemasks

Cloth facemasks should not be placed on young children under age 2.

It should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or who cannot remove the mask without help.

Facemasks can trap viruses and droplets, so you have to wash your hands after touching it.

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