HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT
Wearing a mask can save lives. FACT.
Another Fact: Shaming people who refuse to wear face masks to prevent Coronavirus spread is not going to convince persons of the need for them.
Masks have become an ongoing debate with many seeing mask-wearing as a must and others sharing a host of reasons why they shouldn’t use them. HEALTH PLUS fielded the opinions of our population and concluded along with the rest of the world, that there are several “Mask Myths” out there, thus we attempted to set the record straight on these common misunderstandings.
MYTH 1: “I feel fine, I don’t need a mask” (FALSE)
FACT: Research has shown that a significant number of people with COVID-19 lack symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 percent of virus transmissions happen before people feel sick. A pre-symptomatic person can spread the virus even before symptoms arise. These persons do not know they are transmitting the virus to others when they talk, sneeze, cough or raise their voice (for example: singing or shouting). Other research says this “silent-spreading” might even be more frequent, suggesting more than half of COVID-19 infections result from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases.
The implication of these findings is that you might not be visibly unwell, but you could still be infected and infectious. Wearing a mask helps to lower the transmission of respiratory droplets to other people around you.
MYTH 2: Oxygen levels will drop and carbon dioxide will be re-inhaled (FALSE)
FACT: Just as oxygen can get in, carbon dioxide can get out. So, accumulation of carbon dioxide is not a direct concern.
If you are not used to it, wearing a mask might feel uncomfortable or unusual. It may cause anxiety related to claustrophobia but wearing a face mask will not cause carbon dioxide (CO2) retention or oxygen deficiency. Consider surgical staff who routinely wear face masks for hours to perform surgery, where clinical effectiveness is peak, focus and precision are necessary. If wearing face masks caused CO2 retention, it would not be part of surgical techniques. Additionally, over the years there is no documented evidence of any surgeon passing out because of face mask usage and oxygen deficiency.
“If you feel uncomfortable in your mask,” says the Mayo Clinic, “Try to limit your talking and focus on breathing through your nose. That will reduce the humidity level in your mask, that adds to the claustrophobia.” Carbon dioxide will freely diffuse through your mask as you breathe.
MYTH 3: My mask just needs to cover my mouth (FALSE)
FACT: A mask should cover both your mouth and your nose. It should be snug but comfortable against the sides of your face, and you should be able to breathe without restriction. Choose one that secures with ties or ear loops. Do not wear your mask around your neck or chin, or over your head – that doesn’t protect anyone.
MYTH 4: I don’t need to wear a mask, if I physically distance (FALSE)
FACT: To be crystal clear, it’s NOT either a mask or remain 6 feet apart from others…it is both. Wearing a mask and physically distancing at least 6 feet apart is for everyone’s protection, including yours.
MYTH 5: Masks only help if someone has symptoms (FALSE)
FACT: Coughing and sneezing do create very high-risk situations, but even talking can also spread infected respiratory droplets. Any time inhaling and exhaling occur, there is potential to spread the virus. Due to this, we continue to encourage people to wear masks.
Masks help us prevent infection in several ways:
• You may have COVID-19 without knowing. We know it is possible for people to carry the virus without having symptoms. By wearing a mask, you can prevent accidental spread.
• Wearing a mask also helps protect you by preventing infection. If someone else is not masked and spreads infected droplets into the air, the mask serves as a barrier that limits the likelihood that you will breathe in those droplets and become infected.
• Touching your face with unwashed hands (or even gloves), could get the live virus in your eyes, mouth or nose. Depending on the amount of virus on your hands, this can cause infection. Masks provide a barrier to at least the mouth and nose.
Although these masks are new to most in our community, they are common in the health care setting. Due to this, we have years of experience with them, and are certain they are safe to wear. Wearing a mask helps to lower the transmission of respiratory droplets to other people around you. Simply put, wearing a cloth mask helps decrease the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
It’s NOT enough to just wear a mask
As the World Health Organization has emphasized, wearing a mask alone isn’t enough. Social distancing and personal hygiene remain important. Equally, the organisation stresses the need to wear face masks safely and emphasizes the list of dos and don’ts – from how to clean them to wearing them properly.