Heatwave: Can we dampen cloth facemasks when it is too hot?

Published by Caroline J. · Published on 30 July 2020 at 08h32 · Updated on 30 July 2020 at 11h46
As temperatures are still rising, reaching 40°C (104°F) in South of France, coronavirus is still around and face coverings can be hard to bear. And yet, it remains vital to wear them. Therefore, can we dampen cloth face coverings to make wearing them more bearable? According to the Afnor (French Association for Standardization), the answer is absolutely no.

Here comes another heatwave in France on Thursday July 30, 2020 and six departments are on orange alert: Ardèche (07), Drôme (26), Isère (38), Rhône (69), Savoie (73) and Haute-Savoie (74). This Friday July 31, 40°C (or 104°F) are expected in Île-de-France.

And yet, it is out of the question to leave face coverings behind as Covid-19 is still around. Santé Publique France recently shared a memo recommending wearing a facemask, using well-maintained air-conditioning units and airing indoors.

But then, how can we bear face coverings in hot weather? Can we dampen cloth masks to bear them better? AFNOR message is very clear on the matter and the answer is no. The French Association for Standardization explains humid masks filters droplets far less well because it is the static electricity in the fabric fibers that stop them. With a damp face covering, there is no longer static electricity and droplets from spits can get in more easily. Moreover, damp masks can make breathing harder.

So, how to bear face coverings when it is very hot? First, go for clear face coverings instead of dark-colored ones as they tend to attract sun more. Then, go for a cotton facemask as it is generally more breathable. Last but not least, the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) relayed on LCI insists on how to breath: “Prefer breathing through your nose with your mouth closed when wearing a mask” the Quebec organization says adding breathing through one’s nose “generates less warmth and humidity staying in your mask”.
Last but not least and this is important, do not forget to change your facemask when it is humid.

Practical information

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