Why does the continuous usage of masks cause headaches and tiredness?


During this current COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, all human beings are advised to wear face masks to prevent themselves from contracting the disease and spreading it. People need to include mask use as our new normal as we go to public spaces and return to work. However, there is a claim that continuous usage of masks can cause headaches and tiredness by social media users and the claim is proved by few researches. 

The reason for headache and tiredness is due to hypercapnia which you breath in your exhaled carbon dioxide in a certain number of hours and cause too much carbon dioxide in the blood. This condition will give you symptoms including drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness, headache, shortness of breath and disorientation. However, it is very unlikely that the general public would suffer from this condition by wearing a mask because CDC stated that the slowly building up carbon dioxide can be tolerated by most people. 

This new norm also will affect healthcare workers because they mandatorily wore the protective N95 face mask while managing the patients. A survey done during the 2003 severe acute respiratory distress syndrome epidemic showed healthcare workers that used N95 face mask and protective eyewear for more than 4 hours per day were predisposed to the development of headaches and had taken sick leave or required use of analgesic. For this current COVID-19 outbreak, a team conducted a study and found the same result that frontliners had a new onset of PPE associated headache and those who had a background history of migraine or tension type of headache will worsen. 

PPE associated headache is also believed due to external compression by either mask or goggles and their straps on your forehead or scalp. Wearing a face mask also will change how you breathe by increasing your effort in breathing that may cause discomfort in breathing and tiredness. Tiredness may be due the increased resistance with the presence of an extra layer through the breathing path and reduction in the volume of air breathed. It may be not serious in some people but not in people with reduced lung volumes such as in people with lung or heart conditions and women in the later stages of pregnancy. 

Other common face mask problems are acne due to increased build of oil, dirt, skin and bacteria in pores and skin sensitivity such as dermatitis and eczema. Ear pain and foggy glasses also are a common frustration when people use face masks. Solutions to common mask problems are simply to reduce the duration of face mask wear to short stints and for health workers, better strategies targeted at optimizing work-rest cycles to shorter amounts of time of mask exposure because the solution to an external compression headache is removing the headwear that causes the pressure. 

Next solution is you should avoid unnecessary masks and headgear such as while driving or if you are alone and ensure the headgear fits properly and is positioned correctly. If possible, remove headwear frequently to give yourself a break from the pressure and you should take a break from using the mask if you feel uncomfortable. Keep yourself hydrated by setting your timer to prevent dehydration causing headache. If you find you have breathing problems while wearing the mask, you can practice mindful breathing or find a place to be along with your mask for a few moments. 

If you have a specific condition such as difficulty breathing at rest, you should consult your doctors as to whether you should use a mask. For avoiding acne, you must throw away the disposable mask at the end of the day and consider not wearing makeup under your mask.You can get creative on how you loop the straps to avoid ear pain by trying a high bun, sewing buttons on headband or making a connector for the back of your head. 



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