Face mask usage is one of the most effective ways to limit SARS-CoV-2 transmission, but a mask is only useful if user compliance is high. Through anonymous surveys (n = 679), it was shown that mask discomfort is the primary source of noncompliance in mask wearing. Further, through these surveys, three critical predicting variables that dictate mask comfort were identified: air resistance, water vapor permeability, and face temperature change. To validate these predicting variables in a physiological context, experiments (n = 9) were performed to measure the respiratory rate and change in face temperature while wearing different types of three commonly used masks. Finally, using values of these predicting variables from experiments and the literature, and surveys asking users to rate the comfort of various masks, three machine learning algorithms were trained and tested to generate overall comfort scores for those masks. Although all three models performed with an accuracy of approximately 70%, the multiple linear regression model provides a simple analytical expression to predict the comfort scores for common face masks provided the input predicting variables. As face mask usage is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal of this quantitative framework to predict mask comfort is hoped to improve user experience and prevent discomfort-induced noncompliance.
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