The impact of face masks on heart rate and oxygenation

 

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Researchers at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital (UH Rainbow) published new findings today that wearing a face mask – either a cloth mask or a surgical mask – did not impair the ability of subjects to get air in and out of their bodies. 

The study measured heart rate, transcutaneous carbon dioxide tension, and oxygen levels in 50 adult volunteers at the conclusion of six 10-minute phases: Sitting quietly and then walking briskly without a mask; sitting quietly and then walking briskly while wearing a cloth mask; and sitting quietly and then walking briskly while wearing a surgical mask. The median age of participation was 33 years and 32 percent of participants indicated they have a chronic health condition such as asthma.

In the study, not a single participant developed a low level of oxygen or high level of carbon dioxide in the blood while wearing a cloth or surgical mask either at rest or during exercise. According to the study’s principal investigator, Steven L. Shein, MD, Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, the risk to the general adult population of having significantly abnormal levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide when wearing a cloth or surgical mask is near-zero.

“We know face masks help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we also know people have concerns of discomfort or impaired breathing while wearing them,” says Dr. Shein, who is also the Linsalata Chair in Pediatric Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Our hope is these findings will reassure people that their body is able to adequately get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out while wearing a face covering.”

The new study titled “The effects of wearing facemasks on oxygenation and ventilation at rest and during physical activity” published in PLOS ONE journal is under embargo until 2 p.m. ET on Feb. 24: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247414

This study was financially supported by the UH Rainbow Department of Pediatrics.

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About University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Internationally renowned, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is a full-service children’s hospital and pediatric academic medical center with experts in 16 medical divisions and 11 surgical specialties who offer nationally ranked care not available at other institutions in the region, including a center dedicated to adolescent and young adult cancer treatment and Northeast Ohio’s only single-site provider of advanced maternal fetal medicine and neonatology services. As an affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in the region, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital offers access to novel therapies, advanced technologies and clinical discoveries long before they are available nationwide. Rainbow pediatric specialists – all of whom also serve on the faculty at the School of Medicine – are engaged in today’s most advanced clinical research and are widely regarded as the best in the nation – and in some specialties, the best in the world. Learn more at UHRainbow.org.