Does wearing a mask lower your oxygen levels?


Audrey Boyce

The CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings. In situations where one cannot wear a mask, it suggests keeping a social distance of at least 6 feet from others.

Belief: Wearing a mask lowers your oxygen levels.

Reality: Wearing a surgical mask or cloth face-covering does not lower your oxygen levels. 

Dr. Megan Hall, a pediatrician in South Carolina, and Dr. Maitiu O Tuathail, a doctor in Dublin, Ireland, conducted similar experiments. They measured their oxygen saturation levels in different scenarios: including not wearing a mask, wearing one mask, or wearing several. Both doctors maintained constant healthy oxygen levels of 98% or 99% in all scenarios. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people wear masks, such as a surgical mask or cloth face-covering, in public settings. It has also asked that the general public reserve N95 masks for health care professionals. 

According to the FDA, surgical and cloth masks are lose-fitting, and the edges of the mask are not meant to seal around the nose and mouth. Non-N95 masks are also porous, allowing air to move freely in and out of the mask. So, while masks limit the movement of respiratory droplets that allow COVID-19 to spread, they do not restrict the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

According to the CDC, children under two years old, people who have trouble breathing, or anyone unable to remove the mask without assistance, should not wear a mask. People who cannot wear a mask should consult with their healthcare provider to find out how to keep themselves and others safe. The CDC advises keeping at least a 6 feet distance from others in situations where one cannot wear a mask.

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