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Beginning June 26, the wearing of masks in public is mandatory in Tarrant County. But for some, the idea of wearing face masks is the cause of much anxiety.
"Many people have complained that they are not able to breathe while wearing a mask," said Karen Schultz, M.D., medical director of Pulmonology at Cook Children’s. "Some are even concerned that wearing a mask will cause oxygen levels to go down. Fortunately, this is not the case. The cloth masks worn in public as well as the surgical masks worn in the hospital allow airflow while breathing but they contain the mist that we all exhale."
Dr. Schultz adds the masks allow for adequate entry of oxygen as well as removal of carbon dioxide. Medical staff have worn masks for prolonged periods of time long before the outbreak of the SARS-CoV2 virus without any difficulties.
However, anxiety about wearing the mask can lead to feelings of difficulty breathing. The hyperventilation associated with anxiety can actually DECREASE carbon dioxide levels which can cause a feeling of dizziness but this is not related to any restriction to airflow by the mask.
If someone feels like they are having difficulty breathing with a mask, they should take slow deep breaths such as those taught in yoga.
Masks are a courtesy to others. They protect those who may be more vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses such as cystic fibrosis or diabetes. Masks should cover the mouth and nose to keep others safe.
So why is wearing a face mask important?
"I don’t think any of us enjoy wearing masks, but we need to wear them to help our community," Dr. Schultz said. "Until we get a vaccine, wearing a mask is the best alternative to preventing COVID-19."