Will Wearing an N95 Mask Cause a Loss of Oxygen?

There is an uncommon concern about the respiratory effects of the use of the N95 face mask. Some people have concerns that the use of the face mask can cause a carbon dioxide-oxygen imbalance. The occurrence is from prolonged use over time, which allegedly can cause dizziness, weakness, or difficulty in breathing. On April 23, a lone driver of an SUV crashed into a pole in New Jersey. While reporting the possible cause, the investigating officer mentioned that he 'believed' the man passed out due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide".

However, N.J. Police department clarified the following day that "are nor physicians" and could not know the victim's medical history. Unfortunately, the previous post had traveled far and shared over 2,700 times. There remains no 100% accuracy of the actual cause or contributing factors to the incident.

According to the Medical Centre of Vanderbilt University, prolonged use of face mask is not medically proven to cause inadequate oxygen for healthy people. However, for people living with a severe breathing-related condition, the face mask may cause more difficulty in breathing. At the same time, this case will not be due to carbon dioxide retention. In other words, the only people like to experience difficulty in breathing are those with underlying health condition concerning breath.

girl wearing N95 mask

On the other hand, Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert, further clarified that prolonged wearing of the N95 mask by health professions might alter the blood chemistry and adversely affect the person's total consciousness. Also, it can become uncomfortable, while severe breathing difficulties may occur in patients with obesity, smoking, asthma, emphysema, and similar lung-related issues. 

The N95 face mask is not recommended for the general public but mainly for the health professionals and factory workers. The general public will be excellent with simple cloth face coverings or surgical face masks. They only have to ensure that it encloses the mouth and nose while allowing ease of breath when wearing. If there is an underlying issue or an exposure to possible infection, the individual can stay in isolation.

Furthermore, published research by the Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control reported that pregnant healthcare workers experience difficulty in breathing through N95 masks. This situation increased the metabolic workload of the body system. The suggestion was to reconsider the length of N95 face mask usage to prevent further respiratory complications.


On the other hand, a high inhalation of carbon dioxide can cause dizziness, CO2 toxicity known as hypercapnia, tinnitus (buzzing noise from within) vertigo, double vision, or even suffocation. But it is not yet a medically proven fact that the prolonged use of the N95 face mask is responsible for such conditions without a prior medical challenge to the mask wearer.

In conclusion, the CDC and the FDA still support the use of N95 masks for medical practitioners and surgical masks for the public. Both categories of PPE have been sufficiently tested for filtration efficiency and fluid resistance using standard methods.