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When can wearing a mask under a full face motorcycle helmet be perilous

A person wearing a mask and goggles under a full face motorcycle helmet
4580 Views July 16, 2020, 1:09 p.m.

No matter what your age is and in which country or state you live, you must now be having a clear picture of how wearing a mask can combat the spread of coronavirus. As per government guidelines, wearing a face mask is mandatory whenever you step out of your house. WHO recommends wearing at least three-layered fabric mask, especially in places where physical distancing of 2 meters is difficult, such as crowded market places, public transport or confined spaces.

Now the question is when you are riding a motorcycle, should you wear a face mask or not? What if you are wearing a full-face helmet?

Good quality motorcycle full-face helmets offer airflow circulation and ventilation to evaporate sweat and keep you fresh. While these helmets are a safe choice for riders, they also increase the chances of coming in contact with viral droplets. Dr.Tommy Lim, who is also a rider, questioned the wearing of surgical or N-95 masks under bike helmets in this current pandemic situation. The doctor cautioned that face masks when worn while riding can restrict breathing and lead to blackout or serious health conditions.

We are well aware that proper airflow and breathing is very much crucial while riding a motorcycle. Motorcycle riding is a vigorous and energy-consuming activity for which our body needs enough oxygen to prevent any loss of consciousness. Surgical or N95 masks are designed to filter air and may restrict breathing which may prove very dangerous when you are riding at high speeds. That is because when you are riding at high speed, your adrenaline kicks in and your heartbeat increases to pump more oxygen in the body. In this situation, the mask will restrict you breathing and cut short the supply of oxygen to your brain until you blackout.

According to Dr Lim, even when you are not riding at high speed, there are other times when mask can be dangerous under a helmet. For instance, when you are riding in a hot and humid climate where a rider's heartbeat rises or a sudden bump or accident that kicks your adrenaline. In such a situation, remove your helmet and face mask to catch your breath and call for help.

Now when wearing a surgical or N95 grade mask under the helmet is seriously not a safe choice, what other options you are left with? Dr Lim recommends wearing a balaclava instead of different types of masks. Although face-covering balaclava does not offer as much protection from coronavirus particles or pathogens that other surgical or N95 masks, it is still better to cover the face instead of letting air pass through more freely.

The motorcycle is still less risky and an excellent physical distancing vehicle than a car, bus or train where people share an enclosed space. COVID virus does not stay for long in the air, and riding a motorcycle with balaclava under the helmet is a safe decision.

For the safety of our biker community during this pandemic, it is a good choice to carry a mask tucked inside the pocket. Before you take out the helmet, wash your hands with soap or hand sanitiser with at least 60 percent alcohol or 70 percent isopropanol content. It will be very convenient to carry a small bottle of sanitiser while you ride. Keeping all these measures in mind, you are ready to go on a safe motorcycle ride without facing any serious health issues.

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