FluShields Looks Into The Dangers Of Wearing A N95 Mask

A woman wearing a face mask in a subway while using her phone
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The N95 respirator face mask or DYI face masks with an activated carbon filter can make it a bit safer by reducing the intake of germs and particles, however, it's also more difficult for the wearer to breathe due to carbon dioxide buildup, which reduces the intake of oxygen, increased breathing rates, and heart rates. The bottom line is, if you have lung disease (i.e. asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath), ask your doctor about wearing an N95 face mask.

Later on, feel free to scroll down to watch the video at the end of this blog - this is an interesting experience from a person with asthma.




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Now that we've all been wearing face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some people say that wearing a mask is reducing their intake of oxygen—or forcing them to breathe in their own carbon dioxide. This leaves them feeling faint or light-headed. They're also concerned about how dangerous this is, and how less oxygen and more carbon dioxide might affect their health.

One driver who crashed his SUV into a pole actually blamed his collision on his mask. He told police he passed out because he’d been wearing an N95 mask for too long. The officers believed him, writing in their reports that he was the only person in the car and passed out due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake.


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So is it possible that wearing a face mask as part of social distancing can cause someone to build up so much carbon dioxide and get so little oxygen that they pass out, or worse? Carbon dioxide is a natural by-product of the body’s respiration process, something we all breathe in and out every day. How harmful can it be?

In rare cases, it can actually be pretty dangerous, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They say that inhaling high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) may be life-threatening. Hypercapnia (carbon dioxide toxicity) can also cause headache, vertigo, double vision, inability to concentrate, tinnitus (hearing a noise, like a ringing or buzzing, that’s not caused by an outside source), seizures, or suffocation due to displacement of air.  CO2 is present in the atmosphere at a level of about 0.04%. It is dangerous in an atmosphere when it is greater than about 10%.


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It’s also possible to have too little CO2. If you hold your breath, you wind up with too much CO2. The core issue is that CO2 regulates the pH of the blood—too much CO2 and the blood becomes too acidic; too little and it becomes too basic (alkaline). In either case, your body detects the change in acidity and you pass out, which is the body’s way of saying, please stop fooling with me and breathe normally.
When it comes to face masks, we know they’re not all made equally. The extent to which a mask could affect CO2 levels depends on what it’s made of, and how tightly it fits. If you put a plastic bag over your head and tie it tight around your neck, no coronavirus could get in, but neither could any oxygen and you would suffocate.
It’s highly unlikely that you would pass out from a lack of oxygen with a cloth mask, which generally doesn’t fit tightly to your face. When you exhale or inhale, air can go around the mask as well through the pores in the material. This is why a cloth mask does not absolutely protect you from inhaling the virus, but by disturbing your exhalation flow it tends to protect those around you from aerosols in your breath.
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There are some doubts that cloth face coverings would ever fit against the face so tight that someone would pass out from a lack of oxygen. You’d take it off because it’s uncomfortable well before that happens. 
But what about the guy in the New Jersey car crash? He was wearing an N95 mask, after all, not just a regular cloth mask.
Someone wearing an N95 mask for a prolonged period of time may have alterations in their blood chemistry that could lead to changes in level of consciousness if severe. But it’s most likely to happen to those who are already predisposed to breathing difficulties, such as smoker, obese people, or individuals with COPD or emphysema.


Good news: You can actually protect yourself from viruses by wearing an N95 respirator mask: Get your N95 respirator masks for the whole family today.


Medical advisors say that prolonged use of any face mask, including the N95 respirator, have not been shown to cause carbon dioxide toxicity in healthy people. Because breathing is slightly harder with a mask, they do recommend that people who suffer from severe COPD or other lung diseases that make breathing difficult carefully consider the use of face masks.
The bottom line? The N95 might be uncomfortable and restrictive to the point where it affects your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels...but you just need to find a way for you to wear it with comfort. As for cloth face coverings (either store-bought or homemade), there’s even less of a chance of breathing issues, and it’s definitely not an excuse for going out without one.
Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth but feels loose, rather than so tight you really can't breathe. If you continue to feel like your airways are cut off, consider other possible causes, such as a panic attack, which can trigger sudden feelings of suffocation and breathlessness. 




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Please note that we can only pass on general information and cannot make any guarantees or be liable for any consequences of your decision making or behavior. Use good common sense and ask your health care provider or physician for advice. 


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