Virtua Health physician offers advice for keeping healthy and cool during the pandemic
(Marlton, N.J.) The summer brings heat, humidity, sweat — and this year, face masks on top of it all.
With social distancing guidelines still in place, it’s important to continue protecting against the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends face coverings for all people age 2 and older who don’t have trouble breathing.
Dr. Richard Levine, a family medicine physician at Virtua Primary Care—Cherry Hill offers these tips for staying safe and comfortable as the mercury rises:
1) Pick a mask made of a breathable material. Wearing a mask can make you feel like you’re suffocating. That’s because the air you exhale is at your body temperature, about 98 degrees Fahrenheit. But with a mask covering your mouth and nose, heat gets trapped inside. If you can’t breathe easily through your mask, and you’re wearing it outside on a hot day, you could overheat.
Choose a mask made from a breathable fabric like 100% cotton. A mask made from an old T-shirt or woven cotton sheets would work. Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester, as well as mask filters, which can make your mask hotter and harder to breathe through.
Also, pick lighter colors that reflect sunlight, rather than darker colors that absorb heat.
2) Make sure your mask fits snugly, but not too tight. Your mask should cover your nose and mouth. It also should fit snugly against the sides of your face, but loosely in front of your nose and mouth so it doesn't restrict your breathing. If you’re bothered by ear loops, try a mask that has adjustable ties or straps.
If your mask isn’t comfortable enough to keep on your face, chances are you won’t wear it for long, leaving yourself and others unprotected.
3) Carry more than one mask. Cloth masks can easily become damp with sweat. A wet mask can stick to your face and obstruct your breathing. Carry extra masks in a plastic sandwich bag to keep them clean and dry.
Wash your cloth masks as often as possible. If you’re wearing a disposable mask, throw it away if it becomes damp or soiled.
4) Take time to breathe easy. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as stores and crowds (like on the boardwalk).
But if you’re sitting alone outside or driving, you probably don’t need a mask. When you’re picking up food at the drive-thru and will be within six feet of someone else, put your mask on.
Likewise, if you’re running or walking alone in your neighborhood, you can leave your mask at home. If you’re weaving in and out of a crowd and can’t maintain a safe distance, wear your mask.
If you have a job that requires you to wear a mask all day, take breaks where you can go off by yourself and remove it. Be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching the front of the mask.
5) Care for your skin. Heat and humidity can cause moisture to build up under your mask, irritating your skin. To ease this irritation, apply a moisturizer that doesn’t clog your pores.
6) Wait to go outside. If you’re particularly sensitive to the heat and are afraid you’ll have trouble breathing through your mask, go outside first thing in the morning or later in the day when it’s cooler.
To learn more about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Virtua’s expert tips and resources page.To make an appointment with a Virtua physician, call 888-847-8823 or 888-VIRTUA-3.
About Virtua Health:
Virtua Health is committed to helping the people of South Jersey be well, get well, and stay well by providing the complete spectrum of advanced, accessible, and trusted health care services. Virtua’s 14,000 colleagues provide tertiary care, including a renowned cardiology program, complemented by a community-based care portfolio. In addition to five hospitals, two satellite emergency departments, and more than 280 other locations, Virtua brings health services directly into communities through home health, rehabilitation, mobile screenings, and its paramedic program. Virtua has 2,850 affiliated doctors and other clinicians, and its specialties include orthopedics, advanced surgery, and maternity. Virtua is affiliated with Penn Medicine for cancer and neuroscience, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics. As a not-for-profit, Virtua is committed to the well-being of the community and provides innovative outreach programs that address social challenges affecting health, from addiction and other behavioral issues to lack of nutritious food and stable housing. A Magnet-recognized health system ranked by U.S. News and World Report, Virtua has received many awards for quality, safety, and its outstanding work environment. For more information, visit ThisIsVirtua.org. To help Virtua make a difference, visit GiveToVirtua.org.