Vaccinated Americans can now feel comfortable shedding their masks indoors, according to CDC guidelines although some states and businesses may still require them and some of the country’s top docs, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, say masks may make seasonal returns to prevent colds and the flu.
Over the past year, Americans have covered up to prevent COVID from spreading, but many people have been concerned masks would cause breathing issues.
Researchers at University Hospitals in Cleveland studied oxygen levels in adult mask-wearing volunteers to measure the impact on their respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
“We used a special medical probe that attaches to the forehead and it measures the oxygen level, the subject’s carbon dioxide level and also measures the heart rate too,” described Dr. Steven Shein, chief of pediatric critical care at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
Doctors ran the tests under three conditions. They had participants sit quietly and then walk briskly without a mask, raising their heart rate, on average, 30%. Then the participants repeated the sequence with a cloth mask, and again with a surgical mask.
“We thought it was really important to test both cloth masks and surgical masks. And importantly, we had people bring in their own cloth masks. So, this was not some like special thing that it was like, you know, super thin. In both parts of this study, both with the cloth mask and with the surgical mask, we didn’t find any difference. Heart rate stayed the same. Oxygen level stayed the same and carbon dioxide levels all stayed the same,” Shein said.
Researchers say the risk to the general mask-wearing adult population of having abnormal oxygen or carbon dioxide levels is near zero.
The scientists say one-third of the participants also reported having a chronic condition, like asthma, and still registered normal oxygen levels during the study.