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Can Face Mask for Coronavirus Increase Risk of Heat Stroke?

The beginning of warmer weather often means new challenges for health. Till now, the biggest heat-related health concern is the risk of having a heat stroke. In accordance with health experts, this summer may even be more difficult for people who often struggle with heat-related issues due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Since the starting of the current health crisis,  health agencies including the World Health Organization have increasingly emphasized the need for following preventive measures in order to cut down coronavirus transmission.

One of the most important measures is wearing a face mask. A number of studies have shown the practice of wearing face coverings in public plays a fundamental role in ending health epidemics. Like in previous health crises, masks have also made a significant difference in the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, recent research has shown that countries that have successfully flattened the curve were only able to do due to strict policies on wearing a mask. For instance, East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan mandated wearing a face mask for coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.

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To this day, these countries have the lowest rates of death. The number of new cases in these countries is also comparatively much fewer in number in comparison with other countries. Therefore, it is clear that wearing a mask is vital in controlling the pandemic.

However, while the practice is necessary, wearing a face mask in public can increase the risk of a potentially life-threatening health complication – heat stroke. As soon as the weather gets warmer, health agencies always guide people on avoiding extra clothing in order to cut down the risk of having a heat stroke.

People are encouraged to wear light and airy clothing. Wearing a face mask in this weather can pose difficulties for some people and elevate the risk of heatstroke for many people.

Although there are specific guidelines on wearing a mask properly for coronavirus, a big number of people continue to wear tightly-fitted masks. Doing so for constant hours can make breathing difficult and increase body temperature.

This can be especially dangerous for people with respiratory issues and underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. In addition, wearing a mask constantly in hot weather can also raise the chances of a heat stroke in older adults and children younger than four.

The associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Matthew Levy, explains “When the heat comes back, we need to be extra cognizant that masks, while important to wear for mitigating the spread of coronavirus, could make things worse for some people. They may result in added stress on the body.”

While it is indeed important to wear a mask for controlling the coronavirus pandemic, Levy suggests planning beforehand and going outdoors strategically. For instance, it is better to go out after evening during cooler temperatures rather than in the noon and afternoon.

Other measures such as dressing comfortably, carrying umbrellas or wearing hats, drinking more fluids are also important. Lewy also adds that people should be aware of the signs of heatstroke.

Symptoms including light-headedness, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, dehydration, and blurry visions are all associated with a heat stroke. Consult a doctor as soon as possible if these signs appear.

The precautions for avoiding a heat stroke are almost similar to those for coronavirus. For example, it is better to go out late at night or early in the morning or not at all.

For people who are at high risk of coronavirus and a heat stroke, it is better to stay indoors and avoid going outdoors as much as possible. This way one can wear a face mask for coronavirus and keep the chances of a heat stroke low as well.

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