WARNING! Medical experts in Japan say wearing a mask during the hot summer greatly increases risk of heatstroke

Wearing masks in summer can lead to heatstroke; Japan doctors urge self-hydration


Face masks (Getty)

TOKYO — Medical experts in Japan are raising concerns over the regular use of masks during the summer as it raises the chances of heatstroke. While high temperatures and heatstroke cases have already been recorded this year, doctors stress the importance of taking individual measures to stay hydrated amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Since the beginning of May, days with temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celsius or higher, on par with average summer days, as well as those with midsummer heat of 30 C or higher have been recorded throughout Japan.

The number of people being taken to hospital by ambulance due to heatstroke symptoms has also been on the rise in some areas at a faster pace than 2019. Between May 1 and 13, a total of 54 people in Tokyo were sent to hospitals, excluding island regions and other areas of the capital, according to news flash data gathered from local fire departments. The number increased by 10 people compared to the same period of the previous year. For other major regions in the greater Tokyo area, the city of Yokohama recorded 13 heatstroke patients, an increase of five people from the same period last year, while the city of Saitama recorded seven, an increase of two.

There have been reported cases where patients came down with heatstroke symptoms while they were outdoors, partaking in activities such as farm work or walking their dog. The Japan Meteorological Agency estimates that nationwide temperatures for the period between May and July will either be about the same or higher than normal years. It is possible that the number of those being sent to hospitals due to heat exhaustion will increase all the more.

A group of doctors aiming to reduce the number of heatstroke patients is currently spreading awareness about the hidden stages of dehydration leading to severe symptoms, before the arrival of summer. The group points out the danger of wearing a mask in summer, such as “Heat is more likely to amass inside the body,” and “As the inside of the mask becomes damper and more humid, you’re less likely to feel signs of thirst.” The doctors warn that people may become dehydrated without being aware of it, leading to higher risks of heatstroke.

The doctor group also calls for people to drink more water than usual as a preventative measure. They advise against taking drinks containing caffeine to stay hydrated, as caffeine is a diuretic, increasing urinary output. In addition, the group stresses the importance of regularly doing light indoor exercises or other forms of exercise during this relatively cool season, in order to practice sweating and developing a body that can lower its temperature by perspiring.

Masuji Hattori, a pediatrician at Hyogo College of Medicine and head of the group, commented, “Heatstroke patients being sent to hospitals in ambulances risk placing an increased burden on the medical field already strained over the novel coronavirus. Heatstroke is an illness that can be totally avoided if proper precautions are taken. We would like for each individual to make serious efforts to take such measures.”

(Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, City News Department)