Claim: Prolonged use of a face mask causes hypoxia and “breathing over and over exhaled air turns into carbon dioxide, which is why we feel dizzy”.
Source: A post circulating on Facebook claimed that prolonged use of a face mask produces hypoxia. It also claimed that “breathing over and over exhaled air turns into carbon dioxide, which is why we feel dizzy.”
The article went on to say that “some people drive their car with the mask on, that is very dangerous, because, the stale air can make the driver lose consciousness.”
Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level.
Mpilo Central Hospital Acting Clinical Director, Dr Xolani Ndlovu said the information is partly false as it depends on the type of mask the person is wearing.
“It depends on what mask you are talking about. N95 masks may inhibit breathing if worn for prolonged periods. Surgical masks and clothing mask, very unlikely,” said Dr Ndlovu.
“Mask should be worn whenever a person is in a public place or where there are other people as respiratory droplets can be airborne and remain in the air for long periods.
He said there is no evidence to support lifting the mask every 10 minutes.
“There is no evidence to support lifting the mask every 10 minutes. The last part about dizziness depends on various factors such as any pre-existing condition, physical exertion and type of mask”.Dr Ndlovu
An Infectious Disease expert, Amesh A, Adal was quoted saying, “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 its most likely happen to those who are already predisposed to breathing difficulties, such as smoker, obese people or individuals with emphysema”.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised people to wear masks in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Background: The world is currently battling with Covid-19 which was first identified in China in 2019. The use of masks is one of the recommendations of the prevention and control measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases including Covid-19. Countries such as Zimbabwe have since enforced mandatory wearing of masks in public as a barrier for potentially infectious droplets.