This One Mask Tip Will Help Keep You Cool This Summer

When it comes to dealing with high temperatures, the color of your mask is important.

As summer truly kicks in, the coronavirus pandemic continues. For many, this means that travel plans and some warm weather events have been canceled. It also presents the challenge of protecting yourself against the virus in rising temperatures. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend that most people (children under two, those with severe breathing problems, and anyone who can't remove a mask themselves are exempt from the recommendation) wear a mask or face covering out in public, especially where social distancing isn't possible. You may be finding already that covering up half of your face is more uncomfortable on hot, sunny days. The good news is that there's an easy way to combat that discomfort without sacrificing safety. Choosing a certain type of mask during the summer can keep you cooler.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is transmitted via infected droplets, which can be released when you breathe, speak, sneeze, or cough, among other things. For this reason, the CDC recommends that cloth masks and face coverings be made of tightly woven cloth, which lets fewer droplets pass through in either direction than something with a more open weave. A linen mask, for example, might be cooler in the summer heat, but it would not be as effective in slowing the spread. Masks with valves (created to serve an industrial purpose, not medical) are also not recommended by CDC, as they only protect the wearer. While you may breathe easier in a mask with an open valve, you could be an asymptomatic spreader, potentially transmitting the disease to people around you.

So if you can't buy a mask with a valve or one made of a lighter, open-weave material, how do you keep from getting overheated? Speaking to CBS Local News in Pittsburgh, primary care doctor Brian Lamb, DO, said that the color of your mask can make a difference. Lamb advised wearing a white or light-colored mask to stay cool.

Mother and daughter wearing masks outside
Shutterstock/MIA Studio

It's a tip you probably remember from childhood, when you learned in science class that lighter colors reflect more light, while dark colors absorb it. Therefore, wearing lighter clothes will keep you cooler when you're out in the sun. But there's another theory that wearing black is actually the better choice, because it absorbs heat before it gets to your skin and also absorbs your body heat instead of reflecting it back to you. Per NPR, that theory only applies to loose, flowing garments or thick fabric, like the black robes worn by Bedouins in the Sinai desert, as discovered in an oft-cited 1980 study published in Nature. Basically, if that trapped heat doesn't have anywhere to go, you'll still feel it. Your mask is likely not thick, and it shouldn't be too loose, so you wouldn't get the same benefit.

So the next time you're shopping for a mask, make sure to choose some in light colors or even pure white. And whatever color you choose, be sure to wash your mask after each wear, especially on steamy days. "The heat and humidity build up in your mask and make a beautiful breeding ground for bacteria," Lamb told CBS Local News. And for another tip that will change your life, This Mind-Blowing Trick Will Make Your Face Mask So Much Safer.

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