Keeping Everyone Safe: 7 Myths and Facts Regarding Wearing a Mask During the Pandemic
The pandemic has been a frustrating and difficult time for everyone. With the issue still looking for the foreseeable future, many communities have enacted ordinances to require masks in various public areas. This has created a lot of confusion over the plethora of misinformation everywhere.
Unfortunately, there are many myths that are being shared on social media disguised as facts about the use of a mask in public areas. This list should help provide information to help identify those myths and understand the facts. This can help to keep everyone safe during this difficult time.
Myth: Any Face Covering of Any Material will Work
Fact: It is recommended that a mask be made of a tight-knit material and covers the mouth and nose. The mask should also fit snuggly to prevent droplets from escaping. The best face mask for COVID-19 is one that will prevent droplets from escaping when the wearer is speaking, coughing, or sneezing.
Many people believe that as long as they cover their nose and mouth when in public, they are fine. There are even companies that sell mesh or lace face coverings for use during the pandemic. Unfortunately, these types of masks and materials do not fulfill the function needed for a proper face mask.
The purpose of a face mask is to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus to others when out in public. Products made of mesh or lace materials do not provide the protection needed. Tight-knit cotton or other natural materials can provide protection without restricting airflow.
Myth: Masks Cause a Person to Breathe Too Much Carbon Dioxide or Restrict Oxygen
Fact: Properly fitted masks, especially cloth masks, do not impede airflow. Oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are tiny and can easily pass through the masks. There have been many experts and testing that prove that the masks do not prevent oxygen from getting in or carbon dioxide from getting out.
Many people believe that the carbon dioxide they exhale can get trapped in the mask causing a person to breathe it back in. They also fear that the mask may be preventing them from getting enough oxygen. Simply put, this is not true at all.
For some people who are not used to wearing the mask, they may feel anxiety or even begin to panic. They are still able to breathe fine but are panicking and that fear is causing them to have difficulties breathing. It is suggested to wear the mask around the house to get used to it before going out.
There are some respiratory conditions that may make it difficult for a person to wear a mask. In these cases, it may be a good idea to discuss the issue with a doctor or to avoid public interactions when possible. It is also not recommended to put a mask on a child under 2 due to choking hazards.
Myth: Cloth Masks Do Not Protect Against COVID-19
Fact: Studies have shown that wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth can act as a physical barrier. It prevents respiratory droplets from being put out in the air. These droplets can carry the virus to others. Cloth masks, however, may not completely prevent a person from contracting the virus but can help minimize them from spreading it to others.
Many people argue that the virus can pass easily through the cloth materials. Although the virus is tiny and can conceivably pass through the holes of the material, the virus needs a mode of transportation for any type of travel and transmission. This transportation is respiratory droplets.
If a person is directly coughed on by an infected person, the mask will not provide the protection needed, but it can block some droplets from entering. When coupled with social distancing, it can minimize a person’s risk of contracting the virus.
However, the main point of the mask is to prevent the droplets from getting in the air in the first place. When a person wearing a mask speaks, coughs, or even sneezes, fewer droplets are in the air. If everyone wears a mask and maintains social distancing, it makes it very difficult for the virus to be transmitted.
Myth: No Need to Social Distance if Wearing a Face Mask
Fact: Wearing a face mask only has the method for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends that social distancing of at least six feet be maintained when out in public in addition to wearing a face mask to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
Many people think if they are wearing the mask they are protected and do not have to follow social distancing guidelines. However, the six feet of separation is the length that respiratory droplets can travel when simply speaking. Sneezing and coughing can make these droplets travel farther.
When using a face mask, it helps to prevent those droplets from getting out into the air. Unfortunately, it does not prevent all droplets. This makes it important to maintain the six-foot separation to minimize the risk of these droplets spreading the virus.
Myth: Only the Sick Should Wear a Mask
Fact: Everyone should wear a mask when in public. This is because the virus can be spread before symptoms are noticed. There have also been many cases of people being asymptomatic or have no symptoms at all. Those who go out without a mask without knowing they are sick can spread the virus to others.
Early in the pandemic, many experts advised to only wear a mask if having symptoms. This was before they knew much about the virus. There was also a mask shortage occurring and medical professionals desperately need all the masks they could get.
As scientists learn about the virus, some recommendations may change. It does not mean that they were wrong or are lying, it is just that they are relaying the best information possible as they learn it. This is a new disease and there is still much to be learned from it.
Myth: A Mask Can Increase Risk of COVID-19
Fact: When using a clean mask that fits properly in combination with social distancing, proper handwashing, and avoiding touching the face, the rate of transmission can be decreased greatly. If everyone follows these guidelines, it reduces the respiratory droplets in the air, as well as reduce the chance of them entering the body.
Many people have argued that the mask can hold the virus in it and increase the likelihood of breathing in the virus. However, a virus does not travel on its own. Any respiratory droplets on the mask will stay on the mask. As long as the mask is washed regularly and hands are washed after removal, the likelihood of transmission is low.
Some people also argue that a person is more likely to touch their face when wearing a mask. Unfortunately, this is true and can increase the risk of a person transferring the virus on their hands to their face. However, this risk can be reduced by properly washing hands and learning how to properly put on and take off the mask.
Myth: Wearing a Mask Weakens the Immune System
Fact: There is no evidence that suggests that wearing a mask weakens the immune system. The human body will continue to maintain its immune system as normally with a mask. Protecting one’s self from the virus is not weakening their immune system.
Many people are under the assumption that their immune system gets strong with exposure to various bacteria and viruses. Exposure to such things may allow the body to recognize them in the future and allow a quicker response but does not make the immune system stronger.
A healthy diet and proper exercise can help maintain a strong immune system. Vaccines can offer people the ability to build a defense against many types of diseases by offering a weakened version to allow the body to build antibodies for that specific disease.
Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Exposure to the disease, even in young, healthy people, can cause serious and even fatal illness. This makes it important for everyone to do what they can to prevent contracting the virus.
There is evidence that antibodies to COVID-19 are created in the body after exposure to the virus. However, there is still not enough evidence to know how well these antibodies will last or even protect a person from getting the virus again. This makes it important to avoid exposure even after having the virus.
There are also some concerns that the virus is a hoax or that wearing a mask is a sign of weakness or association with a political side. None of these thoughts are true at all. Unfortunately, many people spread falsehoods across social media that make people question the validity of experts.
The fact is that COVID-19 is very real and very dangerous. This pandemic has spread to nearly every country in the world. There are more than 25 million cases and nearly 850,000 deaths worldwide. To minimize transmission and lower the death rate of this disease, it is important for everyone to do their part.
It is a scary and confusing time. However, following current recommendations and safety protocols can help reduce the spread of this virus until effective treatments can be found to minimize the damage and fatalities around the world.