Does prolonged use of a mask cause physical discomfort and irritation?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
The single study in this list that examines this question found that the answer is yes. A single study is often not sufficient to draw a conclusion so we encourage you to refer to this study merely as food for thought.

Chart summary of 1 study examining this question

All answers are assigned by State of K users. The label Couldn't Identify means that State of K was not able to determine whether a study answers the question "yes" or "no". This could be due to several factors. One possibility is that a study found some evidence to indicate that the answer to the question is "yes" and some evidence to indicate that the answer is "no". This often happens when a study uses two or more proxies to study the same phenomenon (i.e. firearm sales figures and self-reported firearm ownership rates as proxies for the prevalence of firearms) and the proxies yield different results when looking for correlations with another phenomenon (i.e. firearm-related deaths). Alternatively, the label may be applied if the phenomenon under study (i.e. whether breast milk improves cognitive function) is true for one group, but not another (i.e. true for girls, but not for boys). Yet another possibility is that a study found there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question. Finally, the full text or abstract of a study may not have been written clearly or was inaccessible. This would make it difficult to determine how a study answered a question.

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Literature Reviews
Although we recommend you consider all of the studies below, we believe the following study is a literature review, which surveys and evaluates many studies on this question:

Total studies in list: 1
Sorted by publication year
Downsides of Face Masks and Possible Mitigation Strategies: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
"ObjectiveTo identify, appraise and synthesise studies evaluating the downsides of wearing face masks in any setting. We also discuss potential strategies to mitigate these downsides.DesignSystematic review and meta-analysis.Data sourcesPubMed, Embase, CENTRAL and EuropePMC were searched (inception–18 May 2020), and clinical registries were searched via CENTRAL. We also did a forward–backward citation search of the included studies.Inclusion criteriaWe included randomised controlled trials and observational studies comparing face mask use to any active intervention or to control.Data extraction and analysisTwo author pairs independently screened articles for inclusion, extracted data and assessed the quality of included studies. The primary outcomes were compliance, discomforts, harms and adverse events of wearing face masks.ResultsWe screened 5471 articles, including 37 (40 references); 11 were meta-analysed. For mask wear adherence, 47% (95% CI 25% to 68%, p<0.0001), more people wore face masks in the face mask group compared with control; adherence was significantly higher (26%, 95% CI 8% to 46%, p<0.01) in the surgical/medical mask group than in N95/P2 group. The largest number of studies reported on the discomfort and irritation outcome (20 studies); fewest reported on the misuse of masks, and none reported on mask contamination or risk compensation behaviour. Risk of bias was generally high for blinding of participants and personnel and low for attrition and reporting biases.ConclusionsThere are insufficient data to quantify all of the adverse effects that might reduce the acceptability, adherence and effectiveness of face masks. New research on face masks should assess and report the harms and downsides. Urgent research is also needed on methods and designs to mitigate the downsides of face mask wearing, particularly the assessment of possible alternatives.Systematic review registrationOpen Science Framework website (timestamp 20-05-2020)."
Mina Bakhit
2021 BMJ Open
Literature Review