How to survive wearing a face mask

Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

20 November 2020

Some concerns with wearing masks

Whilst we don't seem to have much choice during the current climate, the thought of wearing face masks, for some, is daunting - especially as, depending on your job, you could be left having to wear your mask for the vast majority of the day! Some concerns with wearing a mask are as follows:

  1. A lack of oxygen flow
  2. Trouble hearing or detecting visual clues
  3. Heightened anxiety
  4. Skin outbreaks

Throughout this blog, I explore these themes in more detail and explain what can be done to help you overcome these potential issues.

1. Lack of oxygen flow

With the continual wearing of masks, one of the primary concerns is the lack of the availability of oxygen and/or the risk that we'll be breathing in more carbon dioxide-rich, expired air.

Whilst masks are porous meaning that fresh air can get in, the presence of the mask over your mouth and nose will make the carbon dioxide-rich air more readily available, rather than the more oxygen-rich fresh air we'd normally expect to be exposed to.

What are the symptoms of high CO2?

As the carbon dioxide concentration increases in our bodies even slightly, we could be more prone to developing symptoms including headaches, drowsiness, or problems concentrating.

These symptoms are to name a few, but remember, oxygen is vital to almost every single cell of our bodies, including our immune cells, so we would really hope to have optimal oxygen levels at all times, to help ensure these are also working optimally.

How to overcome it

Whilst wearing a mask in areas or situations as recommended by the government should be continued, there are some steps you can take to help limit any negative impacts this new way of life may have:

  • Breathe better when you get the chance – Whilst when wearing a mask your breathing may be somewhat hindered from the norm when you are able to de-mask, ensure you make your breathing count! That means taking big, deep breaths into your chest, as well as your tummy, whilst also remembering to practice good posture. Sitting up straight with your shoulders down will help to give your abdomen the room it needs to fill with lovely, oxygen-rich air.
  • Don't wear a mask unnecessarily – It's easily done - once we're no longer required to wear a mask anymore, we forget, and eventually realise we've continued wearing the mask for some time afterwards! So, as much as possible, try to lose the face mask as soon as it isn't required. For example, if you're alone outside with people from your household bubble, or driving in the car, remember to take your mask off.
  • Keep hydrated – Whilst the access to good quality air might be slightly more restricted at times, your access to water certainly isn't. Remember, even as little as 1% dehydration could also contribute to some of the same symptoms we've mentioned above, including headaches, dizziness or lethargy. So, don't forget to prioritise water to give you the greatest chance of feeling your best
  • Support your system with nutrients - Whilst your breath may be somewhat limited, remember, your nutrients also don't have to be! As well as oxygen, almost every cell in our body requires a good supply of nutrients to work optimally.
    Therefore, supporting your system with a supplement such as Immune Support can leave you rest assured that you are doing everything you can to support your body during these more unusual times.

Please note, we understand that some people may be already exempt from wearing masks due to underlying health conditions. But for others, we hope these tips are helpful.

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2. Trouble seeing or hearing

Another potential problem with wearing masks continually is that they can pose issues when it comes to communication. This can be more of a problem for people who wear glasses or hearing aids, for example, as it may become more challenging to pick up visual clues.

How to overcome it

Whilst wearing the masks, for now, is non-negotiable, there are some tips to help incorporate them more easily into our everyday lives. Firstly, get a mask that fits well. Some of the one-size-fits-all options may not be ideal, and especially if you're worried about your senses being impaired. So, spending a little more on a custom-made option that can be re-used, may be more advantageous. There are now masks available which include nose wires, adjustable elastic toggles, or lighter, softer or more natural fabrics. Also, clear masks may also be an option for people who really rely on lip-reading techniques, in order to communicate effectively.

Next, let's think about other factors that could be potentially adding to the problem. Simple techniques such as tying long hair back could help to limit any infringements on your sight or hearing and more importantly, put your mind at rest.

Finally, you could try making more of an effort to communicate effectively when your mask is off. Now, more than ever, we need to think outside the box in terms of how we communicate. Make the effort to pick up the phone more, or if you're on a video call, don't shy away from the camera in order to benefit from a little, although digital, social interaction!

3. Heightened anxiety

With everything going on, stress and anxiety seem to be at an all-time high for many of us. However, for some, wearing a mask whilst out and about and trying to get on with their day, can risk tipping them over the edge. It can risk taking us out of our comfort zone and adding to an already surreal situation.

Again, much of this can be due to the impact on our sight, sound or picking up on visual clues, as mentioned above, but it can also leave us feeling a little claustrophobic, having that material covering your nose and mouth, which for some, will only add to the unease.

How to overcome it

If you ever feel yourself rising into a state of panic, the main aim is to get you back down to 'green' – your more relaxed headspace. Breathing deeply, with particular emphasis on long exhales is one quick and easy way to help achieve this, as well as perhaps taking a dose of a quick-acting herbal tincture, such as Stress Relief Daytime drops.

Nowadays, as we risk being thrown into these states more often, we may also have to think a little outside the box, in order to help get us back to feeling relaxed. Watch for another anxiety-busting technique in my latest self-care video below:

My Self-Care Tip: The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety

Here I run through a quick and easy technique to help ward off anxiety, and get you back to your happy place!

Please note, if your symptoms persist, you should always seek advice from your doctor.

4. Spotty outbreaks

The continual wearing of masks has also created another problem for many, and this is new-found skin flare-ups, something many people may not have experienced for some years!

Wearing a mask in close proximity to your face can not only aggravate the skin and cause irritation, but it can also harbour bacteria, making spotty plukes more likely to rear their ugly head, quite literally!

How to overcome it

First of all, when it comes to the masks themselves, opt for a reusable cotton or silk mask which can be washed daily, rather than disposable masks made from more synthetic materials. Wired or more structured masks may also help to create a little breathing space between the material itself and your skin.

Next, be sure to de-mask as soon as possible, rather than forgetting and wearing masks, unnecessarily, for longer periods of time. This will allow your skin to become exposed to fresh air quicker, rather than the humid confines of your mask.

Finally, more of a focus on skincare may be beneficial. Get into a better skincare routine, aiming to cleanse and moisturise your skin daily, and be sure to limit the use of any harsh chemicals to help prevent aggravating your more sensitive skin any further.

Product references


Echinaforce® Echinacea Drops

For relieving the symptoms of colds and flu. Also in 50ml & 100ml drops.
More info

A.Vogel Echinaforce Hot Drink Cold & Flu Echinacea concentrate for oral solution with Elderberry for the relief of cold and flu symptoms, 100ml


£ 11.35

find your local stockist

Echinaforce® Echinacea Hot Drink. Soothing and palatable hot drink.
More info

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