Question & Answer

Do facemasks reduce the amount of oxygen you breathe causing you to feel faint?

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  • There is evidence that wearing a mask reduces the amount of droplets that get scattered from the nose and mouth, and can protect others from the wearer.
  • There is general agreement from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organisations that people with symptoms of respiratory illness should wear face coverings in combination with other measures (e.g. isolating from others, hand washing and sanitising, containing coughs and sneezes in tissues etc) to help prevent spread of respiratory diseases.
  • The HSE states that face coverings should NOT be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, who is incapacitated, or who is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The WHO states that the prolonged use of medical masks (flat or pleated masks) when properly worn, does not cause harmful changes in levels of the carbon dioxide or oxygen in the air being breathed in. However, the WHO does not advise people to wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.
  • The type (i.e. material used) and design of face masks can affect comfort and perceived breathability.
  • A cloth face covering should cover the nose and go under the chin and fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, and it should include at least 2 layers of fabric and allow for breathing without restriction.
  • Health agencies recommend that when protecting against Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases, face masks must be used, washed, recycled or disposed of appropriately in combination with other measures eg: handwashing, physical distancing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Face coverings are not enough on their own to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including COVID-19. They are NOT a replacement for other recommended measures e.g. hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, social distancing etc, and people need adequate training on how to safely use face coverings (including how to put them on and take them off safely) before wearing them.

Things to Remember


  • Lead Researcher: Dr. KM Saif-Ur-Rahman, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Prof. Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, University of Galway.
  • Topic Advisor: Prof. Dearbháile Morris School of Medicine, and Centre for One Health, University of Galway.
  • Public and Patient Advisor: Ms. Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, University of Galway.
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary.