Does wearing a mask impact your oxygen level? Experts in the Tri-State say no.

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2020 at 7:04 PM EDT
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) - Masks are the first line of defense in fighting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Many people complain they have trouble breathing while wearing a mask. A question on the mind: does wearing a mask impact your oxygen levels?

“The short answer, no,” pulmonologist Dr. Kenneth Leung said. “Oxygen particles can freely go through the masks...The sensation of smothering and shortness of breath typically arise from the humidity. When breathing back out, the hot humid air can make you feel like you can’t breathe.”

Leung says the smothering or shortness of breath feeling is determined by how tight the seal is between your face and mask.

According to the American Heart Association, the average blood oxygen level reading on a pulse oximeter should fall between 95 to 100 percent.

A pulse oximeter is an electronic device that clips onto a patient's finger to measure their heart rate and the oxygen saturation in their blood cells.

Pulmonologist Dr. Elie Saab says your oxygen levels are not affected.

“Your oxygen level is not going to be detrimentally affected as a result of wearing masks, especially for brief periods,” Dr. Saab said. “It really is a disservice to the public and those around you for you not to wear masks because you believe your oxygen levels might be impacted.”

Dr. Saab recommends changing the type of mask based on your chosen activities.

“It depends on what you want to do. If you’re a health care worker, wear the N95 mask,” Dr. Saab said. “If you’re going to school, a cloth mask would be fine.”

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