N95 and Surgical Mask: Is the drop in oxygen levels the Reason behind Your Breathing Issue?


For many, wearing a face mask is the first approach to fight the pandemic. However, several people go against this notion and describe the mask as useless, annoying, and a stunt to spread chaos.

In this current pandemic, it has even become a political symbol. Many posts that are going viral on social media are asking Americans and others to stop wearing masks as they are only to give a false sense of satisfaction and protection.

Many are also claiming face masks to cause their oxygen levels to drop and carbon dioxide to rise in the blood, making it difficult for them to breathe.

Is Wearing Mask Inadequate to Get Saved from Coronavirus?

Look: the mask is just one of many other effective ways to protect yourself from infectious agents. Therefore, CDC in such pandemic situations, advises covering the mouth in public to avoid the spread of pathogens.

One may catch the virus from the droplets of the other infected person when he would sneeze, cough, or even talks. If you are infected, the mask would prevent transmission of some droplets by blocking their pathway and lowering the risk of others getting the same infection.

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A mask can help you protect the community. However, if you are a frontliner or have an N95 mask, you are not only protecting others but also defending yourself from pathogens the other person might have.

Which Mask Should You Choose?

Basically, there are three main types of masks: Cloth masks, Surgical masks, and N95 respirators.

Surgical masks are thin and have two loops, with a small wire to adjust it according to the bridge of the nose. They do not seal the face from sides as the N95 respirator does.

The N95 respirator is thicker and fits tightly around the mouth. It prevents the entry of any type of droplet to enter the respiratory system. Both the FDA and the CDC do not ask people to buy N95 masks. It is for the healthcare providers who are treating infected patients,

Health officials are advising people to use cloth masks. Many brands are making cloth masks; you can even make one. They are best for preventing infected droplets and regulating breathing rate.

Does Any Kind of Mask Cause Your Oxygen Level to Drop?

Up until now, no study could have proved the drop in oxygen levels on wearing the mask. Indeed, it is difficult to breathe with a mask on, especially if it is an N95 one.

Ben Neuman, a virologist from the Texas A&M University, asserts that a mask creates resistance to breathing, causing a more forceful inhalation and exhalation. During this, it does not change the composition of the inhaled air anyhow.

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You can describe it as more of a psychological issue rather than a physical one. The FDA directs people with chronic heart disease, or any respiratory illness, to contact a healthcare provider before using an N95 mask.

Does Face Mask Spike up Your Carbon Dioxide Levels?

With the poor idea of drop-in oxygen level, people also believe that carbon dioxide starts building up in blood after wearing masks for long hours.

Whatever type of mask you wear, whether it is a cloth or an N95 mask, it is porous to gases like carbon dioxide. You do not need to panic thinking about hypercapnia.

However, experts from the CDC state slightly otherwise. According to him, there may be a slight accumulation of carbon dioxide gas, but it would not be enough to cause any harm. It is usually tolerable for many but may cause headaches in some. There are no symptoms of hypercapnia from wearing masks for long hours.

Adeena Tariq Lari
The author is a graduate of dental surgery from the Dow University Health Sciences, Karachi. She has an academic background in content writing as well as English literature, giving her an edge in the field. Adeena is always curious about physical and mental health. She is always passionate about research and delivering high-quality reliable content to users.