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Summer has finally arrived in the UK, and it’s looking like it might even stay put for a fair few weeks. Hurrah! But while we’re lapping up the heat, one thing we aren’t enjoying is wearing face masks in this hot weather. Sweat central.
We’re not required to wear face masks outside, except where it’s impossible to socially distance, but wearing coverings on a hot train or bus – or popping it on when you’re going into a shop – isn’t ideal when it’s 25 degrees out.
And there’s the added issue that face masks may not be working properly in the heat. Heavy breathing (more likely in hot weather) can cause masks to lose their filtration abilities. And face masks that are wet or damp from sweat are also less likely to function.
Watch: How to wear a face covering comfortably
“Face masks do not work as well when damp,” Professor Paul Hunter, from the Norwich School of Medicine, tells HuffPost UK. “And when damp, the N95 masks increase the effort needed to breathe. If your mask gets damp you should change it.”
When your mask is wet, the static electricity in the fabric fibres that stop the droplets of spit disappears, so droplets can pass more easily.
“I don’t wear masks outside unless in a really crowded environment because they’re probably not needed due to the much lower transmission risk outside,” Prof Hunter continues.
“Also if you wear them outside and it is raining (wet from rain) or too cold (wet from moisture in breath) or too hot (wet from sweat), masks will get damp and be less effective when you go indoors and you really need them to work.”
So, what can you do?
In hot weather, it’s recommended that you change your mask more regularly than every four hours to ensure that it isn’t too damp from heavy sweating.
Wearing a more breathable mask, such as one made from 100% cotton, is likely to be more comfortable for you in the heat – but remember: the government states a face covering should ideally include at least two layers of fabric.
It might be worth having a few extras in your bag, too, so you can avoid putting back on a damp mask that’s unlikely to protect you, or others, anyway.
Next time you’re out and about in the heat, remember these three things:
When wearing face masks in the heat...
1. Wear a breathable material, like cotton2. Only wear a mask or covering when it’s needed3. Have more than one in your bag, so you can swap them ou one gets too sweaty
Watch: How to remove a face covering correctly
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.