CLEVELAND — The inconvenience of wearing a cloth mask for a few minutes a day while running errands isn't the end of the world for most people.
But what about those who work outside or don't have air conditioning in their building or school? Extended periods of time wearing a mask for these groups of people can be irritating or cause discomfort. So Cleveland Clinic is here to help with tips and tricks for staying safe and cool through the summer heat.
"Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth in hot weather is certainly uncomfortable, but it's quite necessary if you're going to be around other people outside of your household," internal medicine physician Janet Morgan, MD stated in a recent blog post from the Clinic. Being in hot temperatures for extended periods of time, with or without a mask, can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, dehydration or even heat stroke Dr. Morgan explains.
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To ease some discomfort, the Clinic advises you choose your mask wisely. "The CDC recommends using multiple layers of fabric for homemade masks, to better contain droplets that come out of your nose and mouth when you cough, sneeze and talk," the blog post explains. "Tightly woven cotton fabric is a good choice, as it's breathable and soft. If you're working directly in the sun, opt for a light-colored mask, as darker colored ones will absorb more heat."
Masks will begin to get sweaty and damp after extended use. The Clinic suggests carrying a spare (or two) to swap out for a clean one from time to time. As a mask gets wet, it decreases the protection of the mask and can even make it more uncomfortable to wear.
If able to safely away from others, you can take your mask off for a few minutes if you begin to feel uncomfortable or overheated. You should also take advantage of this time to hydrate, as you may be less likely to drink water throughout the day with a mask covering your mouth which can lead to dehydration.
Lastly, the CDC recommends wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothes as a way to keep your body cool through the summer heat.
You should also be sure to keep your mask clean by regularly washing it. "The CDC recommends washing your masks along with your regular laundry using detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting, or by hand with a bleach solution," the post says. "Dry them completely in your dryer or by laying them flat, preferably in direct sunlight."
And be sure to get yourself out of the heat if you feel dizzy, nauseous, lightheaded, confused, faint or breathless from long periods of direct sun exposure.