Main Article Content
Respiratory protective devices, Personal protective equipment, Occupational health, Surgical mask, COVID-19
Background: Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the extended use of Respiratory Protective Devices (RPD) is recommended to prevent the spread of infection. This recommendation involves not only healthcare workers but the general population, in public places, especially where social distancing is difficult to maintain. The use of facemasks should not cause physical impairment to individuals, especially for people suffering from lung and heart diseases.
Objectives: To evaluate the impact of RPDs on the respiratory function in healthy and asthmatic subjects, in order to identify the fitness for use mainly but not only for occupational purposes during COVID-19 outbreak.
Methods: Ten individuals were included, three of which affected by asthma. A Respiratory Functional Test (RFT) was performed at three times: at the beginning of the work shift with and without wearing surgical masks, and with the mask after 4 hours of usual working activities. Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) samples were also tested before the first test and the third test.
Results: Observed RFTs and ABG parameters did not suffer significant variations, but for Maximal Voluntary Ventilation (P=0.002). Data on asthmatic subjects and smokers were comparable to healthy subjects.
Discussion: Our results suggest that wearing a surgical mask does not produce significant respiratory impairment in healthy subjects nor in subjects with asthma or smokers. Four hours of continuing mask-wearing do not cause a reduction in breathing parameters. Fitness for use in subjects with more severe conditions has to be evaluated individually. Our adapted technique for RFTs could be adopted for the individual RPDs fitness evaluation.
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