Those who wear masks for prolonged periods of time, whether they are N95 respirators or common disposable surgical masks, are found to experience higher levels of discomfort and a decreased capacity to exercise, according to research by a German research team.
Researchers in Germany published their research, finding that prolonged use of face masks, especially the N95 respirators considered to be among the most effective for limiting the spread of COVID-19, impairs the cardiopulmonary capacity, increases fatigue, and causes psychological discomfort when used for prolonged periods.
The researchers studied healthy, male medical professionals equipped with both standard surgical masks and the N95 respirator model, and discovered a series of negative consequences to wearing either device, with all worsened by the N95.
“Medical face masks have a marked negative impact on cardiopulmonary capacity that significantly impairs strenuous physical and occupational activities,” the researchers learned. “In addition, medical masks significantly impair the quality of life of their wearer. These effects have to be considered versus the potential protective effects of face masks on viral transmissions.”
The researchers suggest that the “data of this study may, therefore, inform medical recommendations and policy makers.”
For health care workers, “Wearing of [face masks] is perceived as subjectively disturbing and is accompanied by an increased perception of exertion.” Accordingly, “it is likely that the masks negatively impact on the dynamics of perception especially at the limit of exercise tolerance.”
Those wearing face masks in the study also showed “impairment of physical performance,” which the researchers say may be caused by both “the severe impact on ventilation” and “the associated discomfort.”
The researchers went on to establish that, while discomfort plays a part, “the primary effect of the face masks” on “healthy individuals is driven by the reduction of pulmonary function,” due to the mask making it harder to breathe.
“Auxiliary breathing muscles” also apparently have to work harder to “induce an additional afferent drive,” which apparently increases fatigue in those wearing masks.
The research team also notes that their sample consisted of “relatively young, healthy, male participants,” and the data “cannot be extrapolated” but can “set the stage” to determine what is appropriate for more vulnerable populations, including “elderly and in patients with pulmonary and with cardiac diseases.”
Masks are becoming ubiquitous throughout the country, with several states enacting executive orders that allow citizens to be arrested for the crime of being spotted without one, with some claiming that masks need to be used continuously until a vaccine is developed and made widely available.