Anaemia and face masks. Any advice?

(20 Posts)
QueenofmyPrinces Tue 14-Jul-20 10:00:38

I am a nurse and so obviously weaning a mask for the duration of my shifts.

At work two weeks ago I collapsed and had a seizure and blood tests showed I had severe anaemia - I was only just above the treatment line for needing a blood transfusion.

For many, many weeks prior to this I was finding myself breathless a lot, I couldn’t walk and walk at the same time for example without struggling with my breath.

Anyway, I have since been told that with anaemia, because your blood cells are struggling to get oxygen around the body anyway, that that wearing a mask can sometimes exacerbate symptoms and should be avoided where possible.

I have looked around on google but can’t see any specific guidance.

Does anyone else have anaemia and have any information or advice surrounding this issue?

OP’s posts: |
PurpleButterflyAway Tue 14-Jul-20 10:23:20

Sorry no, but bumping for you as I’ve anemia too and struggle with wearing a mask. Though mine doesn’t sound as severe as yours (and I’ll continue to wear a mask anyway)

QueenofmyPrinces Tue 14-Jul-20 10:30:45

I have been looking at a few websites (reputable ones) and I have read that having anaemia weakens your immune system so makes you more at risk of contracting the virus, and also, because your respiratory function is compromised anyway, you are more at risk of complications if you do get the virus.

I have also seen information saying that people who struggle to breathe should avoid masks where possible.

I work front line on the respiratory ward which worries me in terms of me now being more susceptible to Covid and at higher risk of complications, and that wearing a mask for 13 hours may not be be in my best interests.

I have tried contacting my occupational health department but trying to actually speak to someone is a nightmare.

OP’s posts: |
Realitea Tue 14-Jul-20 10:43:22

Hopefully someone with more knowledge will come along. My ferritin is about 10 and did my first shift yesterday with a mask. About six hours. I felt quite disorientated when I took it off but it only lasted a minute or two.

Lovelydovey Tue 14-Jul-20 10:50:23

Sounds like treating the underlying anaemia is a priority. I would be speaking to the GP about this ASAP - Id argue that a blood transfusion might be an acceptable first treatment given that anaemia reduces immunity and you are at specific risk of Covid given your job, and that wearing a mask (as part of your job) exacerbates the symptoms. If not there needs to be a clear plan, with monitoring, to improve this. This needs to consider both your iron (and other key Vita-Min) intake (diet and supplements) and any underlying conditions which might make you more susceptible to anaemia (heavy periods, coeliac etc).

I’d also be pushing for an immediate occupational health referral. Are you working now despite your recent collapse?

QueenofmyPrinces Tue 14-Jul-20 10:57:18

Thank you both for your replies.

I have been referred to gynaecology as the cause is thought to be due to very heavy periods.

However, I’m also low on B12 and folic acid so I was prescribed Folic Acid supplements as well as iron supplements.

My seizure was due to having epilepsy but my epilepsy team say my seizure was most likely triggered by my anaemia.

I went back into work yesterday to talk to my manager about going back to work and I was only there for about two hours and I was exhausted. I’m supposed to be in on Thursday for some training and although I appreciate I would only be in a classroom, I just feel exhausted all the time and the thought of being there for 10 hours just doesn’t appeal.

I had a seizure last year and was put in for an urgent occupational health referral and they still didn’t see me for 3 months. It was ridiculous and I imagine it will be even worse this time around due to Covid impacting on appointment availability.

I just hate phoning in sick in case people think I’m just making a fuss over nothing or trying to dodge work sad

OP’s posts: |
Woodandsky Tue 14-Jul-20 17:14:43

I don't know anything about the impact of masks but I had anaemia a few years ago and just to warn you it will take months of iron tablets to get better even after they deal with the heavy periods (I had a coil fitted).

So don't expect a quick fix, it will be a long slow improvement, I felt better/worse at different times in my cycle too so be aware of that. Look after yourself and if you're not well enough to work then don't go in.

spooktrain Tue 14-Jul-20 17:49:50

That sounds awful. I know you don't want to but I really would take sick leave. You don't want to make your epilepsy worse due to the anaemia. Can you ask for iron injections? I have had both iron and B12 injected in the past. I really hope you start feeling better soon flowers

Rinee Sun 08-Nov-20 12:40:57

I'm also anemic and I'm experiencing the same, but i haven't fainted. I think a face shield will do for us instead of wearing masks.

Katya213 Sun 08-Nov-20 12:56:38

Do you mean iron or haemoglobin? I'm iron deficient, I found it a bit suffocating with the mask especially being so tired. Can you not get one of those badges that says you are exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons?

Sb2012 Sun 08-Nov-20 13:05:19

QueenofmyPrinces

I am a nurse and so obviously weaning a mask for the duration of my shifts.

At work two weeks ago I collapsed and had a seizure and blood tests showed I had severe anaemia - I was only just above the treatment line for needing a blood transfusion.

For many, many weeks prior to this I was finding myself breathless a lot, I couldn’t walk and walk at the same time for example without struggling with my breath.

Anyway, I have since been told that with anaemia, because your blood cells are struggling to get oxygen around the body anyway, that that wearing a mask can sometimes exacerbate symptoms and should be avoided where possible.

I have looked around on google but can’t see any specific guidance.

Does anyone else have anaemia and have any information or advice surrounding this issue?

I too struggle wearing a mask. My levels are extremely low too and always have been. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer apart from continue to increase my iron levels.

gingercat02 Sun 08-Nov-20 13:33:12

Assuming you are an NHS nurse ask for an Occ Health referral. They are best placed to advise you and your manager

Torvean32 Sun 08-Nov-20 14:06:24

I think your priority is speaking to your Gp. What was your hb and iron levels. What treatment have they offered?
I had chronic anaemia for years and had to have iron infusions to resolve it.

iolaus Sun 08-Nov-20 18:12:53

Have you started your loading doses of b12? As that will make a big difference to you - your hb won't come up until they treat the folate and b12 levels

I was similar 12 years ago - but mine was low enough for a blood transfusion - they refused to let me go back to work for a month, I'll be honest your colleagues have probably noticed the last few weeks/months anyway and will just be glad you are ok and would rather you stay off till you are better

imperialqueen Sun 08-Nov-20 19:33:45

If I was you I would take a few weeks off sick to give you time to build your iron levels back up. After a blood test at the doctors in 2018 I had to get an emergency blood transfusion. I had got to the point where I struggled to walk any length, had lost my appetite, nails splitting, lips had split, chronic headaches, and could hear my heart.

I can't remember how much the blood transfusion increased my levels. I still had to take vit c, folic acid and ferrous fumerate for months and months after. I think I was told it takes 3 weeks (or a month, sorry can't remember exactly how long) for your iron level to increase. So I got my blood taken every 3 weeks, or 2 weeks to ensure the ferrous fumerate was working. I took them religiously, never drank tea, coffee, coke, red wine for 2 hours before or after taking them and tried to take them on an empty stomach. I took them 3 times a day. They did the job and I felt better after a couple of months.

I did return to work a couple of days after my blood transfusion cause I am self employed and couldn't afford to have no pay coming in. If you don't have to I definitely wouldn't recommend it. I was sooo exhausted. I could go back to bed 20 minutes after getting out of it. As I said that level of exhaustion took a few months to overcome.

YankeeDoodlePoodleNoodle Sun 08-Nov-20 20:56:14

To be honest, I would get signed off sick if you can.
You are working in a high risk environment. You need to protect yourself, friends in the NHS have no confidence in management to protect them.

Fischliweiss Sun 08-Nov-20 21:03:36

I've had a blood transfusion fo anemia. I didn't experience any breathing issues. No one said this when I was most unwell. But the masks were not a think like they are now a year ago!

I think you need to measure your blood ox when wearing a mask. I'd be very surprised if it's actually having an impact but is more of a feeling. Various evidence has shown masks don't recuce bllod ox so I'm not sure why it would be an issue if you feel breathless sometimes.

But if it's too much to wear one and you do feel you camt breathe properly then I'd ask to be signed off while you get your anemia sorted.
It might be worth trying to get a transfusion as it will sort it mush more quickly than tablets.

Hcarl Sun 06-Dec-20 20:23:44

Hello,
I am a paramedic and when I was pregnant was anemic and short of breath without wearing a mask . I was experiencing near syncope and severe dizziness while wearing masks. I had to wait until I was passed pregnancy to return to the field. I see comments about masks not reducing oxygen but they fail to consider other variables and if your work of breathing is elevated it is not sustainable for long shifts.

Krissi8 Wed 23-Dec-20 10:49:57

If you have heavy periods its a sign of inflammation in body, and then again makes iron problem worse, try to avoid sugary foods and alcohol (espechially week before and during period), I have same problem as you. Using chaga also helps.smile

Milomonster Wed 23-Dec-20 11:06:13

Sympathies. I have extremely heavy bleeding and blood test showed low Hb. I feel v breathless with a mask too. Makes me feel utterly wiped out and heart races. I’m off to my hematologist today for more tests and hopefully iron infusion. I will ask re mask. Gave you found the underlying reason for heavy bleeding eg fibroids?

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