Health Desk


Does wearing a mask reduce your oxygen level?

Last modified on 6 August 2020

What our experts say

There is no proof that wearing a mask can reduce oxygen levels, also known as hypoxia. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) recommend wearing cloth masks over a surgical mask in public, which are not too tight on our faces and allow for easy breathing.

Even doctors and healthcare professionals wearing N95 masks (which fit very tightly around the face and are made to create a seal around the edge of the mask) are not at risk of hypoxia. However, for any person with preexisting lung or breathing problems in general, they should speak with their doctors about their concerns regarding masks.

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Context and background

Since the World Health Organization and U.S. CDC have recommended wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, face masks have become a target of political discussions. This is likely due to the fact that in the early months of 2020, face masks were not yet recommended by these groups for a number of reasons, including a lack of evidence that they would be effective (since then research has been conducted and we have proof of their effectiveness) and a general shortage of masks for doctors and healthcare professionals. As more research studies were completed and more evidence made it clear that face masks were effective in helping the spread of COVID-19, the face mask policies also changed.


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Media (4)

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  1. From the Frontlines: The Truth About Masks and COVID-19 (ALA)
  2. Proper N95 Respirator Use for Respiratory Protection Preparedness (U.S. CDC)
  3. CDC calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 spread (U.S. CDC)
  4. Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021 (U.S. CDC)
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