Using face mask does not lead to rebreathing carbon dioxide: Research

Chennai: Though many people have expressed fears that wearing face masks could lead to carbon dioxide (CO2) rebreathing, a study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society shows otherwise.

The findings contradict statements linking wearing face masks to carbon dioxide poisoning by trapping of CO2.

In the study titled “Effect of Face Masks on Gas Exchange in Healthy Persons and Patients with COPD”, Michael Campos, MD, and co-authors assessed problems with gas exchange, that is, changes in oxygen level or carbon dioxide levels in healthy individuals as well as veterans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD before and while using surgical masks.

People with COPD, according to the ATS Patient Education Fact Sheet on the disease, “must work harder to breathe, which can lead to shortness of breath and/or feeling tired.”

Dr Campos of the Miami Veterans Administration Medical Center and the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the University of Miami, said, “We show that the effects are minimal at most even in people with very severe lung impairment.”

As for the feeling of breathlessness that some healthy people may experience, Campos explained, “Dyspnea, the feeling of shortness of breath, felt with masks by some is not synonymous of alterations in gas exchange. It likely occurs from restriction of air flow with the mask in particular when higher ventilation is needed (on exertion).”

If you’re walking briskly up an incline, for example, you may experience feelings of breathlessness. An overly tight mask may also increase the feeling of breathlessness. The solution is simply to slow down or remove the mask if you are at a safe distance from other people.


NT Bureau