What precautions should be taken when wearing a mask during summer?

This is part 18 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

Summer is swinging into full gear in Japan. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare says this year people will need to take extra precautions against heatstroke while wearing masks to prevent coronavirus infection.

What measures should be taken?

The ministry advises people to take off their masks if they are maintaining a sufficient distance (at least two meters) from other people. It also says strenuous work and exercise should be avoided while wearing masks and recommends drinking water constantly.

Does wearing a mask increase the risk of heatstroke?

Professor Yokobori Shoji of Nippon Medical School Graduate School, a heatstroke expert, says wearing a mask does not necessarily make a person more susceptible to heatstroke. But he says wearing a mask does make it harder to breathe. Data shows that a person's heart rate can increase by 10% if they are wearing a mask. And Yokobori says that an increased heart rate, combined with the stresses of exercise and high air temperature, can raise the risk of heatstroke.

He adds that while wearing a mask is important to prevent infection, elderly people and individuals living alone should also be wary of the risks of heatstroke. He suggests such people take frequent breaks when walking outside, and that they change masks after sweating, as it is even more difficult for air to pass through damp fabric.

Data in this article is accurate as of June 11, 2020.

For your reference:
Backstories: How to beat heatstroke amid coronavirus pandemic