Use of Face Masks Does Not Affect Oxygen Saturation in Asthma Patients

February 25, 2021
Grace Halsey

AAAAI Virtual Annual Meeting. Among patients with asthma, wearing a mask, regardless of type or duration of use, had no significant effect on oxygen saturation.

Use of a mask does not decrease oxygen saturation (SpO2) in patients with asthma – or in patients without asthma, according to research that will be presented at the upcoming 2021 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) Virtual Annual Meeting, Friday, February 26 – Monday, March 1, 2021.

Use of masks or other types of facial coverings is recommended to help mitigate transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection but the effect of masks on SpO2 in patients with asthma is often questioned.

To investigate the effect of mask wearing on this population, researchers from the University of Michigan asked adult and pediatric patients presenting to the Michigan Medicine Allergy Clinic between September 10 and October 23, 2021 to complete a survey with questions relating to demographics, asthma diagnosis, perceived control of asthma, and the type of mask worn. A pulse oximetry reading was taken during the clinic visit while patients were wearing their mask and they were asked to report how long they had been wearing the mask before the measurement was taken.

A total of 223 surveys were reviewed; 40% of respondents were male, 46% reported having asthma, and 27% were aged ≤19 years.

Among those with reported asthma, SpO2 ranged between 93-100% (mean 98%); among those without asthma, the SpO2 range was 93-100%, also with a mean of 98%.

After multivariable adjustment for gender, race, type of mask worn (fabric, surgical, N95), and duration of mask use prior to measurement, the mean SpO2 showed no significant difference.

Among asthma patients who recorded level of symptom control, mean SpO2 was similar in the well-controlled (98%), somewhat-controlled (98%), and uncontrolled (96.5

“This data reinforces [sic] that wearing a mask, whether it is a surgical mask, cloth mask, or N95, is completely safe,” said author Alan P. Baptist, MD, MPH, in an AAAAI press release. “This is true for all individuals, whether they have a diagnosis of asthma or not.

"I hope this latest data will deliver peace of mind to individuals who are worried that wearing a mask may be dangerous, especially for those individuals who have asthma.”

The full poster (#L18) will be presented at the 2021 AAAAI Virtual Annual Meeting.

Visit the AAAAI website for additional meeting details.