Heading into the great outdoors is a perfect way to get exercise, boost your mood and lower stress. But trying to do this in the heat and humidity of summer—while wearing a mask—can put a damper on the experience.
Masks are still needed to stem the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing a mask when you’re in enclosed spaces with others or unable to maintain social distancing outdoors. In fact, recent evidence has shown that masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19—if everyone wears one.
But the idea of wearing a mask that makes you hot, sweaty, or less able to breathe fresh air can be a hard sell for many.
Why your mask feels hot
It’s no secret that wearing a mask is easier in April than in July. Breathing helps us regulate our temperature when it’s hot, so wearing a mask that traps heat near your face can feel stifling.
The problem gets worse when it’s hot and humid. The humidity common in the Philadelphia region prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling you off.
Fortunately, there are some ways to chill out while you mask up.
Avoid extreme heat and humidity
If the forecast calls for severe temperatures and high humidity, avoid situations that require a mask. If that’s not possible, run your errands first thing in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler.
And don’t be afraid to take breaks. If you’re outside, distance yourself from others and remove your mask for a few minutes.
Whether you’re wearing a mask or not, always stay hydrated while you’re out and about. Dizziness or a racing heartbeat are warning signs of heat exhaustion. If this happens, get out of the heat, safely remove your mask if you’re wearing one, and get medical care right away.
Choose the right mask
Picking a comfortable mask is half the battle. It’s not just about feeling better—you also want a mask that you won’t be tempted to touch.
Your mask’s material and fit could be partially to blame for overheating. Cotton masks are the most breathable and comfortable. Masks with a cotton outer layer and a flannel inner layer work, too. If you’re still struggling to breathe, try switching to surgical masks.
Once you have a comfortable mask, make sure you’re wearing it correctly. Your mask should fit securely but comfortably against your face and cover your nose and mouth. It shouldn’t be so tight that your breathing is obstructed. Choose a mask that lets you tighten or loosen the straps to adjust the fit.
Swap it out—safely
Damp masks aren’t just uncomfortable—they’re actually less effective at screening out the novel coronavirus. If sweat is an issue, be prepared to change your mask.
Keep at least one extra mask on hand for such occasions. Make sure your spares are clean, stored in a bag or container, and accessible while you’re on the go. Try storing them in your glove compartment, a bag or backpack, or even a pocket.
Swapping your mask safely is key. Here’s a lower-risk method for changing your mask:
- Step 1: Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before removing your mask.
- Step 2: Remove the mask without touching the front. Use only the elastic that goes over your ears.
- Step 3: Store the used mask in a sealable bag or container.
- Step 4: Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your clean mask.
- Step 5: Put on your clean mask by putting the elastic around your ears. Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth.
It’s good idea to keep any used masks in a sealable bag or small container. This keeps them from contaminating your hands or other items nearby. And remember to wash your used masks when you get home.