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Summer in New Jersey can be hot enough. During summer 2020, in the face of a pandemic, residents are being urged to wear masks and face coverings in order to stem the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

While recent research has found that one's oxygen intake is not affected when wearing a routine mask, the new accessory can certainly still make one feel like they're struggling to breathe, or become more uncomfortable the longer it's worn outdoors in the middle of summer.

Garden State residents have displayed no shortage of creativity when crafting their own masks from clothing or other materials. Following a few tips, though, could help you avoid feeling like you're suffocating during the warmer months.

"The key is, really, you want to protect your nose and your mouth so you're not inhaling other people's respiratory droplets, and you're not giving out respiratory droplets," said Dr. Richard Levine, a family medicine physician at Virtua Primary Care - Cherry Hill.

The air you exhale is at your body temperature, Levine noted. So that's why you may feel like breathing doesn't come as easy when wearing a mask.

New Jerseyans would be wise to choose a mask made from a breathable fabric like 100% cotton, Levine said. The disposable face masks found in doctor's offices are breathable as well.

"You don't want polyester because polyester just does not breathe," Levine said.

And, cotton products are typically washable. When choosing a mask, Levine added, opt during summer for lighter colors that reflect sunlight.

"Darker colors will absorb the heat," Levine said.

Levine also suggests folks carry more than one mask. During the hotter months, cloth masks can easily become damp with sweat. A disposable mask, he said, should be thrown away if it becomes damp or soiled.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around others who don't live in their household. The CDC says masks should not be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing.

Levine recommends that residents "take time to breathe easy." Just as social norms like handshakes have taken a break, it's become acceptable to step away from a gathering outdoors, or while on the job, to remove the mask "so you can feel like you're getting fresher air."

Considered a tool that reduces the spread of COVID-19, especially when widely used, masks remain required in New Jersey inside shops and other public-facing businesses. They're strongly urged in outdoor settings where you may be weaving in and out of a crowd. Masks will be required for students and staff at schools that relaunch in-person learning in September.

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