Myths About Face Masks
Before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) outbreak earlier this year, face masks were commonly worn by people in certain professions, such as health care providers and construction workers. Now, adults and children alike are wearing face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Despite the fact that health officials support wearing face masks to control the pandemic, myths and misunderstandings still exist about wearing face coverings.
The following are responses to dispel 10 common myths about face masks:
Myth 1: You won’t contract the coronavirus if you wear a face mask.
A face mask greatly reduces the risk of infection, but it does not guarantee that you will not contract the coronavirus disease. A face covering can be ineffective if it does not cover the nose and chin or if it is worn too loosely,
However, wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, frequently washing your hands with soap and water, and not touching your face, can drastically reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Myth 2: If you do not feel sick, you do not need to wear a face covering.
You still need to wear a mask because you may be infected with the coronavirus before you start feeling sick. If there’s one thing that health officials discovered after the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s that people reacted differently to the virus. Some people initially have a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and show other common COVID-19 symptoms, while others are infected but do not initially display any symptoms at all.
So, this means a person who is not yet showing symptoms can potentially transmit the virus to others. A face covering protects other people from those infected with the virus.
Myth 3: You should only wear medical-grade masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises members of the general public to wear cloth face coverings and leave the N95 respirators and surgical masks to healthcare professionals who remain on the front lines of battling COVID-19.
Medical-grade masks offer a higher level of protection by blocking hazardous fluids, like the respiratory droplets produced when a person infected with the coronavirus coughs or sneezes.
Many retailers sell cloth face coverings online and some people make them from scarves, bandanas, socks, T-shirts, quilting fabric, and other materials.
Myth 4: You can get sick by wearing a face mask.
There have been claims that a face mask can cause carbon dioxide poisoning. While we inhale oxygen, we exhale mostly carbon dioxide. There were concerns that a face mask could trap carbon dioxide and cause the wearer to inhale the gas again and develop dizziness, shortness of breath, confusion, nausea or vomiting, and other symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning.
A representative from the CDC told the Reuters news agency that it is unlikely that a mask wearer will suffer hypercapnia, which is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. The level of carbon dioxide likely to build up in the mask is mostly tolerable to the wearer. While the person wearing the mask may get a headache, the CDC representative said it is less likely that the person will suffer symptoms that come at much higher carbon dioxide levels.
Myth 5: Wearing a face mask weakens your immune system.
Health experts debunk the claim that wearing face masks and staying home for long periods of time will weaken the immune system and make people vulnerable to a COVID-19 infection. Medical experts also said there is no research to support this claim.
Medical experts say bacteria can get into the immune system from food, water, and the environment. So, there is enough exposure to bacteria that can keep the immune system operating.
Myth 6: You don’t need to practice social distancing if you wear a mask.
Just because you wear a mask does not mean that you cannot pass COVID-19 particles to someone standing near you. It’s possible for COVID-19 particles from an infected person to pass through the sides of a loose mask, into the air, and land on a person standing close by. Putting space between yourself and the other person, called social distancing or physical distancing, reduces the risk of particles falling on the other person.
The CDC recommends staying a distance of at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) away from another person. The CDC calls social distancing “one of the best tools we have” to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
Myth 7: Cloth face coverings don’t need washing.
Cloth face coverings should be washed after each use, according to the CDC. What’s more, the CDC suggests washing your cloth face covering with your regular laundry. The CDC also has recommendations on its website on how to wash a cloth face covering by hand.
Myth 8: Wearing a mask while swimming protects you from the coronavirus.
The CDC advises swimmers to take off cloth face coverings before getting into the water. What’s more, the CDC says that cloth face coverings can be difficult to breathe through when they get wet. According to the CDC, there is no evidence the coronavirus can spread while swimming in a pool.
Myth 9: Babies should wear cloth face coverings.
The CDC says children under 2 should not wear face masks. Dr. Jamie Macklin, a pediatric hospitalist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told TODAY that babies and toddlers have smaller airways and breathing through a mask can be more difficult for them. What’s more, putting a mask on an infant increases the child’s risk of suffocation, Macklin said.
Besides children under 2, the CDC says a mask should not be worn by a person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or cannot remove the mask without assistance.
Myth 10: Children will suffer emotional trauma if forced to wear a mask.
Pediatricians and mental health experts say there is no evidence that wearing a mask will cause children to suffer emotional harm. Children may feel uneasy wearing a mask, at first, and seeing other people wearing masks. But, parents can put their children at ease by explaining the reason why masks are needed. In fact, parents wear their masks at home and have their children try on masks before going out in public.