Open Accessibility Menu

How to Safely Wear a Mask in the Heat

  • Category: Blog
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Gurbinder Sadana, MD, Pulmonologist, Medical Director of Pulmonology
How to Safely Wear a Mask in the Heat

Summer has finally arrived in Southern California (though some may argue it never left), and while many shops and public spaces are reopening, COVID-19 is still a threat to public health.

The most effective ways to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 are to maintain social distance from others, practice hand hygiene and to wear a mask. Masks that cover your mouth and nose protect others from respiratory droplets, which may be carrying the COVID-19 virus, that are produced when you talk, breath out, cough or sneeze.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to advise wearing a mask when you are unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others. On Thursday, June 18, California Governor Gavin Newsom also issued an order mandating all Californians to wear a face-covering when in high-risk or public settings.

Wearing a mask in our hot, desert weather can seem uncomfortable, even unbearable, for some, but it is important to remember that this safety measure is critical in reducing the spread of the virus in our community.

Here are a few tips to wear a mask safely, and a little more comfortably, in hot weather:

  1. Try a mask with cotton fabric instead of a heavy material.

Researchers have found that materials such as cotton and T-shirts are both breathable and have a high droplet-blocking capacity when developed with at least two layers. Nylon, polyester and canvas, while great for particle filtration, rank poorly in breathability.

  1. If your mask becomes wet, it’s time to switch it out.

Wearing a wet mask lessens the ability of the mask to filter out bacteria, meaning it defeats the effectiveness of the mask. Cloth masks that become wet from sweat or exhaled moisture also lessen airflow of oxygen, making it harder to breathe. Always bring an extra mask to swap out in case yours becomes moist.

  1. Wash your mask, often.

Ideally, you should wash your mask after each use. Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest water possible for the material and dry it on a high heat cycle. You can also hand wash a mask in a bleach solution.

  1. Need a break from your mask? Take a walk.

If you are wearing a mask in a setting where other people are nearby, take a walk so that you can remove your mask while maintaining a safe distance from others.

  1. Or, recreate away from others so you don’t have to wear a mask.

According to the CDC, you do not need to wear a mask if you are exercising or recreating outdoors and are able to maintain a safe six-foot distance from others. However, it is important to always have a mask with you in the event that you encounter a situation where you cannot maintain social distancing.

If you have chronic lung disease or are on supplemental oxygen, you should still wear a mask over your equipment, avoid contact with others and maintain social distance at all times.

Even if you are wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from others, it is best to limit the amount of time spent outside to lower your risk of developing a heat-related illness.

If you must be around others with a mask, take proper safety precautions for hot weather, such as staying hydrated, wearing loose-fitting clothing and refraining from high-intensity activities.