Pulmonary and heart rate responses to wearing N95 filtering facepiece respirators

Am J Infect Control. 2013 Jan;41(1):24-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2012.02.037. Epub 2012 Sep 1.


Background: Filtering facepiece respirators are the most common respirator worn by US health care and industrial workers, yet little is known on the physiologic impact of wearing this protective equipment.

Methods: Twenty young, healthy subjects exercised on a treadmill at a low-moderate (5.6 km/h) work rate while wearing 4 different models of N95 filtering facepiece respirators for 1 hour each, 2 models of which were equipped with exhalation valves, while being monitored for physiologic variables.

Results: Compared with controls, respirator use was associated with mean 1 hour increases in heart rate (range, 5.7-10.6 beats per minute, P < .001), respiratory rate (range, 1.4-2.4 breaths per minute, P < .05), and transcutaneous carbon dioxide (range, 1.7-3.0 mm Hg, P < .001). No significant differences in oxygen saturation between controls and respirators were noted (P > .05).

Conclusion: The pulmonary and heart rate responses to wearing a filtering facepiece respirator for 1 hour at a low-moderate work rate are relatively small and should generally be well tolerated by healthy persons.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiratory Protective Devices*
  • Respiratory Rate / physiology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult