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Wearing a Face Mask to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 Does Not Affect Oxygen Levels

 

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is sharing this press release from the 2021 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting to bring you the latest research news quickly. This year's meeting is being held virtually Feb. 26 - March 1.

Talk with your allergist before making any changes to your treatment plan. If you need an allergist, use AAAAI's Find an Allergist service to search for one in your area.


[PRESS RELEASE]

Wearing a Mask Does Not Affect Oxygen Saturation in Patients With or Without Asthma

According to research scheduled for presentation at the 2021 AAAAI Virtual Annual Meeting, which takes place February 26-March 1, wearing a mask can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and does not impact oxygen saturation.

MILWAUKEE, WI – Research that will be presented at the 2021 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Virtual Annual Meeting found that wearing a mask, which helps to slow the spread of COVID-19, does not impact the oxygen saturation of the wearer, regardless of if the individual has asthma or not.

While the abstract of this research was included in an online supplement to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that was published February 1, the full poster (#L18) will be presented at the 2021 AAAAI Virtual Annual Meeting.

Researchers requested that patients at the Michigan Medicine Allergy Clinic from September 10-October 23, 2020, complete a survey which covered asthma diagnosis, their perceived control of asthma, and the type of mask that was worn. During the appointment a pulse oximetry reading was performed on patients while they were wearing their mask. Patients also were asked to report how long a mask was worn before the measurement was taken.

A total of 223 surveys were reviewed. Oxygen saturation (SpO2) ranged between 93-100%, with an average of 98%, for those with asthma. The range was 93-100%, with an average of 98%, for those without asthma. There were no significant differences in measurements when it came to gender, race, type of mask used, or the amount of time masks had been worn. For asthma patients who recorded their level of asthma control, similar SpO2 was measured in the well-controlled and not fully controlled groups.

“This data reinforces that wearing a mask, whether it is a surgical mask, cloth mask, or N95, is completely safe,” said author Alan P. Baptist, MD, MPH, FAAAAI, who performed the study along with colleagues Malika Gupta, MD, and Marisa Hodges, MD. “This is true for all individuals, whether they have a diagnosis of asthma or not. Wearing a mask is an essential step we can all take to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I hope this latest data will deliver peace of mind to individuals who are worried that wearing a mask may be dangerous, especially for those individuals who have asthma.”

Visit aaaai.org to learn more about COVID-19 and visit annualmeeting.aaaai.org to learn more about the 2021 AAAAI Virtual Annual Meeting.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has over 7,000 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.

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apresnell@aaaai.org
(414) 272-6071

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Comments (7)

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Hmm. I don't know. I looked iver the study. I do think they need more information and more numbers representing different groups of asthma and activity levels. It said n=3 on the n95 masks meaning that is the amount if people they are making that judgment on? Because, personally  I feel n95 masks and cloth masks do affect breathing differently.

I think exertion is the key thing Id want them to look at for asthmatics-- exertion and any tine when asthma is kinda flaring up and breathing can feel difficult-- those are times when I start feeling like the breaths are getting too hard and maybe Im not getting enough oxygen. I don't think having asthma alone is like a get-out-of-masking free card but I think others need yo be mindful that there are times when masks breaks might be needed and to provide space and time in work and in public where one can do that. I think that directing asthmatics and others to ignore asthma as a factor in masking, especially if the person is having difficulty breathing, could be detrimental and I worry about studies like these causing people to do that.

@Shea posted:

Interesting. Is there a link to the study?

I am curious about where it was done (indoor or outdoor, at what temp, and at what exertion level).

I tend to do fine indoors with ac for short periods of time, but in heat, add sweat, and exertion.. I find myself needing to tear that mask off and get relief just breathing with it off (I do mask breaks away from others). I am curious if these conditions (time, heat/humidity, exertion level) can be lab replicated and studied in others? (Or if they were in this study?)

There was no link with the press release or the post info. But this is the JACI article - https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(20)31785-1/fulltext

Bleah, I hate to double post, but apparently it's been too long to edit since I was going back over the article to make sure I didn't miss anything. At any rate, just off the top of my head, I notice the following issues with this study (given the information presented in the blog; mayhaps the actual study addresses these?):

1) Number of participants: 223
2) The study was entirely self-report -- no control groups, no accounting for bias, wasn't double-blind, etc. etc. The article makes it sound as though participants were told what the study was checking for.
3) Participants were tested in a clinical setting without attempt to trigger asthma attacks
4) While there was no difference with gender, severity, etc...apparently there was with age? It's conspicuously absent there. Normally that's included in the list of "no difference in results" blurbs.



So yeah, what I'm getting from this is that the "study" may or may not have proven that people not actively experiencing asthma attacks nor exposed to any triggers were able to breathe in a mask without experiencing a drop in O2. If/when a study is conducted that involves triggering asthma attacks (is this possible? it's something I'd be willing to participate in), I'd be far more interested as to whether there's a difference in O2 sats in that situation when a mask is worn versus when one isn't.

Last edited by savail

I mean, now that I'm not pregnant anymore, if you had me sit in an office with a mask and don't require me to talk much or anything, yeah, I can wear it just about forever, which has been a huge relief (I was averaging about 4 minutes while pregnant). But as soon as you introduce asthma triggers (mold, humidity, irritants and activity in my case)--which I note this study does not mention--yeah, no, it drops fast. But that's okay. The next time I get dizzy enough in the grocery store because I pushed myself too hard that I hit a shelf hard enough for bruising, I'll tell any concerned onlookers that it's okay because masks don't affect asthma.

Just yesterday at dr appt I walked 3 flight of stairs, I avoid elevators, & by the time I reached floor of dr office I was so out of breath & heart beating so fast. It took few minutes to feel normal. I am out of shape so if in shape I wouldn’t have felt as bad but without mask I know I wouldn’t feel so out of breath Also mondays the only day I work in office, I wear mask all day & takes me some time in morning to not breathe so hard/not practically hyperventilate. Most Monday’s I go outside or in my car mid morning to take my mask off for couple minutes.

So in my opinion yes wearing a mask does affect oxygen.

Blah blah blah.  Probably just a numbers game.  Wonder who requested the test.  Too many tests are geared to get the answers they want and not true results.  The same amount of oxygen does go through a mask, but with breathing issues, it is harder to pull the same volume of air through it.  Kind of like a vacuum cleaner trying to suck a rag though.  Any activity with a mask on I am huffing and puffing very hard and my chest starts hurting severely.  Same activity without a mask, no issues. 

Interesting. Is there a link to the study?

I am curious about where it was done (indoor or outdoor, at what temp, and at what exertion level).

I tend to do fine indoors with ac for short periods of time, but in heat, add sweat, and exertion.. I find myself needing to tear that mask off and get relief just breathing with it off (I do mask breaks away from others). I am curious if these conditions (time, heat/humidity, exertion level) can be lab replicated and studied in others? (Or if they were in this study?)

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