Feeling Faint While Wearing Your Face Mask? Here's How To Cope

Happy young woman wearing facial mask for virus protection standing outdoors on sunny spring day.

While health officials have remained divided on the use of masks in public, on May 11 the UK government released a 50-page plan outlining its lockdown easing strategy, including advice which encouraged the use of "facial coverings in enclosed spaces." Yet masks can be uncomfortable to wear for many. And with temperatures expected to soar over the coming holiday weekend, you may be wondering what to do if wearing a mask makes you feel faint or short of breath.

If you find wearing a mask troublesome, know you're not alone. As Dr. Hideki Taniguchi, a dehydration specialist, told the Financial Times: "[Wearing a mask] stops cool air coming in, which raises the temperature especially above the neck; it retains humidity, so the throat becomes dry and people forget to drink."

Despite this, forgoing masks entirely is not an option for many. It's important to note, however, that per the government's advice, those with respiratory issues are not required to wear a face mask. For those who do need to wear them, but find it unpleasant, there are ways to make the wearing experience more comfortable.

Opt For Breathable Materials

The government has asked people to not buy medical-grade face masks, which should be reserved for frontline NHS workers. Instead, purchase or make a face covering out of breathable fabric, such as 100% cotton. Speaking to the Inquirer, Nicole Jochym, a third-year medical student who works with the Sew Face Masks Philadelphia organisation, also recommends avoiding masks with filters because they are frequently made from synthetic materials, which are less breathable and can make masks hotter to wear. And we certainly don't want that.

For those willing to try making their own, the UK government has released a guide to making and wearing face-coverings. Alternatively, Bustle has put together a list of independent brands selling face masks in the UK to help you buy a face covering in a responsible way.

Make Sure It Fits

The fit of your mask is not only important for being able to breathe easily. It's also crucial to get it right so you don't have to adjust it while out and about. The World Health Organisation advises that masks shouldn't be touched while worn, except for when you remove them. Removal should be done using the ear straps, without touching the nose or mouth.

"A tight mask on your face can make anyone have trouble breathing. I even get it when I'm treating my patients," Dr. Purvi Parikh, M.D., an immunology and infectious disease specialist at New York University, told Mail Online. "We're approaching summer time so it's hot outside, and when you're consistently breathing hot air on top of your own breath, that can be quite uncomfortable."

If you find your elastic ear straps tight, you can buy or make face masks with adjustable string ties.

Carry Extras If Available

While the demand for masks is high, carrying extra masks may be difficult. But, if you anticipate wearing one for a prolonged period you may find changing could be helpful, if done safely. "Because cotton masks will absorb sweat when you wear them, it is important to have several clean ones available to use," shares the Inquirer. Using a safe mask-removal techniques, switch up damp masks in private areas, and depose and store safely. Following government's advice, make sure to always wash your hands when removing a mask.

Limit How Long You Wear One

Per UK government advice, members of the public are now encouraged to wear masks on public transport, in supermarkets, while at work, and in other enclosed spaces. Yet as explained in the Inquirer, there are situations like driving alone in your car or walking around outside where you won't need a mask so long as you're taking hygiene precautions and practicing social distancing. You can limit your need to wear one by keeping trips to enclosed public spaces as short as possible and as infrequent as possible.