As the temperature increases this week so does potential risk of transmission of Covid-19. We breathe more heavily and sweat more when it’s hot – and so we need to be prepared.
When you’re wearing a face mask or covering, beads of sweat can run down the lower part of your face and chin. Sweat, unlike heavy breathing, is not considered a factor in coronavirus transmission. But here’s what to be aware of.
“Sweat is not a means of transmission, but we should all be careful,” Juan Gestal, professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Santiago de Compostela told Spanish newspaper La Voz de Galicia. “As a preventative measure, we need to wash our hands after use and avoid touching our eyes, mouth, or nose during use.”
Sweating cannot directly transmit the virus, but it “may make your mask slide down and constantly putting it back in place with your hands isn’t recommended,” Dr Roland Krzentowski, president of Mon Stade, a centre specialising in health, sport and performance in Paris told HuffPost France.
Your face mask might not filter as well
Heavy breathing (with or without a mask) is an added transmission factor because it increases the number of droplets ejected through the mouth and nose. With the heat, our breathing gets faster and more intense, as it does when we exercise. The humidity generated by deeper breathing can cause masks to lose their filtration capacities.
“When you breathe heavily, you’ll notice that the mask enters your mouth more often and bothers you,” Stéphane Gayet, public health and infectious disease specialist at the CHU in Strasbourg, told the Parisien. “There is a greater risk of you lacking oxygen and with that, a temptation to take off the mask or lift it up so you can breathe more easily.”
It’s important not to touch your mask or reposition it with your hands, if you can avoid it. It’s also recommended to avoid touching your face with your fingers, even to wipe away perspiration. A single-use wipe that you then throw in the rubbish is a better – if not green – alternative, or you can use a mist spray to cool off your forehead and neck. Avoid sharing water bottles.
Change your face covering more often
Be careful to keep your mask dry. When it’s wet “the static electricity in the fabric fibres that stops the droplets of spit disappears, and the droplets pass more easily,” according to the French Association of Standards (Afnor). It’s recommended that you change your mask more regularly than every four hours to ensure that it isn’t too damp from heavy sweating.
It’s easy to feel more aware of your mask in the heat. Experts at the Robert-Sauvé Institute for Workplace Health and Safety in Canada recommend that you try, as much as possible “to breathe through your nose (mouth closed) when you are wearing a mask, because this “generates less heat and humidity to be absorbed by the mask.”