Is wearing a facemask making you sick?

Image: Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Is wearing a facemask making you sick? Let’s unpack this topic by looking at Mary-Ann Shearer’s findings.

As lockdown drags on in some countries and many are forced to wear a mask to be able to leave home – I thought it would be interesting to see if there is any detrimental effect from wearing a mask. I find myself feeling like I am suffocating and feeling quite panicky, with an increased heart rate  –  like mild claustrophobia – which I don’t suffer from usually when I wear a mask. I’ve tried using a buff and a clear visor and have now taken to draping a thin scarf around my neck. I’m just grateful that its winter here!

I have always known that I get a headache or a hot flush when being in a space with no open windows within 20 minutes. So I was not surprised to find a study from 2018, which looked at 99 different studies, over several years indicating pretty clearly that we should be careful when we breathe in higher levels of carbon dioxide than our body is designed for. 

I do think this is something we need to take note of and think about – but in this crazy world, it seems no one is taking notice of how masks can affect our health – even when 2 kids in China dropped dead while exercising at separate schools on separate days while wearing masks covering their mouth and nose.

The best option is still to stay healthy is to feed your immune system with a whole-food, plant-based (wfpb) diet, drink clean water, and barley grass juice (BarleyLife is still the best from a nutritional point of view), exercise outdoors daily for at least 30-60min, focus on making the world a better place by solving problems for others, be quick to forgive and avoid habits that cause degenerative diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc.) 

Effects of low-level inhalation exposure to carbon dioxide while wearing a mask can impact your health negatively:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, tasteless, odourless, and non-flammable gas that is heavier than air and may accumulate at lower spaces, causing a deficiency of oxygen. It is naturally present in the earth’s atmosphere as a trace gas and a product of cellular respiration in humans.

The typical outdoor CO2 concentrations range from 80 ppm – 500ppm (parts per million)

Human experimental studies have suggested that short-term CO2 exposure beginning at 1000 ppm affects cognitive performances including decision making and problem resolution.

The main source of CO2 in the domestic environment is human metabolism, as a result of this metabolism we breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2). With a mask over our faces – we will then breath in the carbon dioxide we have just breathed out.

The typical average indoor CO2 concentration ranges from 800 to 1000 ppm

National indoor air quality guidelines have established an upper limit of 1000 ppm for CO2 concentrations in non-industrial buildings in Japan & Canada. So with that mask, we are raising the CO2 levels considerably.

99 studies where looked at between 1950 and June 11, 2018, and several detrimental side effects of inhaling CO2 was found.

CO2 is produced by intracellular metabolism in the mitochondria. The amount produced depends on the metabolism rate and the relative amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins metabolized. As CO2 accumulates in the blood, the blood pH decreases (acidity increases). Therefore, CO2 is discharged from the human body for maintaining the acid–base balance in the blood.

The CO2 produced within the cells is transported into the blood (internal respiration) and is carried by the blood to the lungs where CO2 passes from the blood into the lung to be exhaled.

In turn, this lowers blood pH & results in an acute or chronic respiratory acidosis causing headaches, confusion, anxiety, drowsiness, and stupor (CO2 narcosis).

Slowly developing, stable respiratory acidosis may be well-tolerated but could result in memory loss, sleep disturbances, excessive daytime sleepiness, and personality changes.

An increase in the inhaled CO2 concentration can also result in increased respiratory rate, metabolic stress, increased brain blood flow, and increased minute ventilation, decreased exercise tolerance, headache, dizziness, confusion, and inability to breath in enough – loss of breath; sweating, dim vision, vomiting, confusion or disorientation, raised blood pressure hypertension, and loss of consciousness can result at high levels.

A crossover experimental study conducted on 355 university students of four classrooms suggested that a 100 ppm increase in indoor CO2 concentration (range, 674–1450 ppm) was significantly associated with headache. Office workers exposed to indoor CO2 concentrations higher than 800 ppm reported a significant increase in eye irritation and upper respiratory symptoms

 A 100 ppm increase in indoor CO2 in the range from 467 to 2800 ppm significantly associated with a dry throat, tiredness, headache and dizziness

A study in schoolchildren exposed to indoor CO2 concentrations higher than 1000 ppm showed a significantly higher risk for dry cough and rhinitis  (runny noses ) (654 children of 46 classrooms or 50% of the children in each class!) A 200 ppm increase in indoor CO2 concentration (range, 1000–2000 ppm) in 45 day care centres was significantly associated with reported wheezing and asthma in the 3186 attending children, nearly 71 children in each daycare facility!

In addition, indoor CO2 concentration was reduced when windows were opened. Poor ventilation in daycare centres increases respiratory symptoms, including asthma in children. So make sure you always have a window open in a class, at home and anywhere where you are – even on cold days a small open crack makes a huge difference.

A study done by the department of mechanical engineering in Singapore (published Feb 2016 – ) shows that more than 60% of respired air (breathed out) re-entered the body while wearing a mask across the nose and mouth. This means that more than 60% of the air you breathe in while wearing a mask is high in Carbon Dioxide and other waste products) and this would indicate why so many people are getting headaches, respiratory problems and rhinitis – or runny noses – and a general feeling of not feeling well

So what can we do in these trying times where mask-wearing is mandatory?

I would not wear a mask at home or in the car with my family –

When in public I wear a thin scarf under my nose and stay away from other people – but I am beginning to feel I would rather order necessities online than wear any covering. At schools, I believe the children should wear their masks under their noses as developing headaches, poor memory and cognitive abilities defeat the objects of education and of keeping them healthy!

Send this information to your schools and politicians – get them to read the science. We must be practical and base any decisions we make on science – never on fear! Two children have already died in China from wearing masks while exercising. 

The people that are at risk are over 60 and have pre-existing diseases starting with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. These people should stay at home, get onto a healthy plant-based diet, exercise outdoors daily and be encouraged to make all-round healthy choices. When they are healthy and off their meds – which is possible with healthy choices – they should be allowed back into society and become an inspiration for those around them.

I don’t think anyone has taken this research into account, as the symptoms that develop from mask-wearing indicate that the immune system will be affected, which would put you more at risk for viruses and bacteria.

Always keep a window open – it’s essential for health even if just a tiny bit on cold days and at night – it makes a huge difference. It does not need to blow cold air on you – open the window even if it is from an inter-leading room – keep the door open between that room to benefit from the open window.

Stay well, make healthy choices and think about the consequences of your choices. Visit our website: for more health-related information.

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