How to Stay Cool While Wearing a Mask This Summer
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
August 2021 update: As the coronavirus situation continues to change, masks continue to be an important tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Recently, recommendations have changed so that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are advised to wear a face mask when indoors or in crowded outdoor settings. Visit the CDC's page for Families with Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Members to see the most up-to-date information on the best practices to protect yourself and your family.
Though many of us have had time to somewhat adjust to wearing a mask, it can be a different animal in the August heat. Breathing helps your body regulate your temperature in the heat, so when a mask traps that heat near your face it can get uncomfortable. It can be even more annoying when the weather is humid, which we can expect in the Texas summer.
Fortunately there are some ways to mitigate the heat while you mask up this summer.
Get the right mask
Picking a mask that's comfortable to wear is important - you don't want to be tempted to touch or adjust it too much while you're wearing it. The material your mask is made of can make a difference in dissipating heat. Masks made of cotton tend to be the most breathable and comfortable. Surgical masks are a good choice if you struggle with fabric options.
Make sure your mask is fitting correctly as well. It shouldn't be so tight that your breathing is strained, but should cover your nose and mouth and be secure against your face. The CDC has a lot of great information and pictures on their Guide to Masks page.
If you are feeling overheated while wearing your mask it's OK to take a break, as long as you're keeping safety in mind when doing so. Find a spot to rest that's six feet away from others, preferably outside in the shade, and remove your mask without touching the fabric front. Make sure you put the mask back on when you're done with your break, or swap it out for a fresh one if it's too sweaty.
Have an extra mask on hand
Damp masks are uncomfortable to wear, and they are actually less effective at blocking particles that contain the coronavirus. If you find yourself sweating enough to dampen your mask, you should keep a fresh one on hand to switch out.
Make sure your spare mask is clean, and keep it in a small bag or container to keep it separated and sanitary. It's a good idea to always keep one in your glove compartment, backpack or purse, just in case.
Make sure you're using precaution when taking off your mask too. Here's what to do:
Sanitize or wash your hands before removing your mask
Take off your mask using the elastic or fabric ties only. Don't touch the front of the mask.
Store the used mask in a separate bag or container (or you can put it straight into the washing machine if you're home).
Use sanitizer or wash your hands again. If you're putting on a clean mask, you want to make sure you don't get it dirty yet.
Using the elastic again, put on your clean mask and make sure it covers your nose and mouth.
Make sure you wash your masks after each time they're used! You can wash masks in your regular laundry cycle, and make sure to dry them completely either in the dryer or by hanging it in direct sunlight.
Avoid the heat when you can
The best way to stay cool is to avoid the worst of the heat altogether. If you're going to go outside, try to do so first thing in the morning or in the evening when it's cooler out. Try to avoid going out midday when the heat really ramps up, and stay in the shade as much as you can.
Always stay hydrated when you're out in the heat. Many public water fountains have been turned off due to COVID-19, so make sure you bring water with you wherever you go. Try to drink at least two glasses of cold water every hour, and avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol as they can lead to dehydration.
Be aware of the most common signs of heat exhaustion, which include dizziness, fainting, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting or rapid heartbeat. If you or anyone else has these symptoms, immediately get out of the heat and seek medical help if lasting longer than 15 minutes.