Numerous health myths regarding the wearing of face masks are circulating the internet, causing many individuals to be hesitant to don the garment that has the potential to stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Concerns that masks might lower oxygen levels, raise carbon dioxide levels, or become a source of infection themselves are unfounded, according to health experts.

Numerous demonstrations have been made illustrating the impact—or rather a lack thereof—of a mask on an individual’s oxygen intake or CO2 buildup. Using a pulse oximeter to measure her oxygen saturation and heart rates, South Carolina Doctor Megan Hall compared the results on Facebook of wearing no mask with those while wearing a surgical mask, a N95 mask, and both masks together.
Her oxygen saturation levels read 98 percent for the no mask and surgical mask scenarios, and actually increased marginally to 99 percent for the two involving the N95 mask. “There is no significant change in my oxygen saturation (or HR) in any scenario. Though it maybe inconvenient for some, you can still breathe,” Hall concludes.

“Scientific studies are showing that there’s no real important changes in C02 levels or oxygen levels even from wearing surgical masks,” according to Kirsten Koehler, an associate professor in environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And fabric masks have better permeation for gases. It’s not something that I’m concerned about at all. Probably more likely is that people are hot when wearing a mask and so people maybe just feeling overheated.”

Individuals with severe asthma may have trouble wearing a mask, although according to Dr. David Stukus, a member of the Medical Scientific Council for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), most asthmatics should wear face masks, due to their increased vulnerability to contracting severe COVID-19 symptoms.

“For people with very mild asthma or well-controlled asthma, it’s probably not going to be an issue,” according to Dr. Stukus. “For people who have very severe disease and have frequent exacerbations, ER visits, hospitalizations, require lots of medications and frequent symptoms, it might cause more issues for those folks.”

“The vast majority of the people with true underlying lung disease are going to wear a mask because they know if they get exposed to this virus, they’re at very higher risk for serious complications,” adds Dr. Liam Sullivan, an infectious disease specialist at Spectrum Health.

Bacteriological infections are also unlikely if the mask is properly cared for, including the proper washing of multi-use cloth masks. Dr. Sullivan also points out that surgical teams have been safely using masks to prevent infecting their patients for decades.

“If [people] wear masks correctly, it’s true that the work of breathing is a little harder. But that just means that the mask is acting as a filter,” explained Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and medical director of the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases. “If you have to breathe in and it out of a filter, it takes a little more work.”

Once leaving an infected individual’s mouth or nose, most water droplets containing coronavirus particles only appear to travel about 6 feet before drifting to the ground—hence the commonly used measurement of 6 feet (2 meters) for social distancing rules—but a properly-worn face mask will effectively inhibit the forward flow of any particles that fail to be caught by the mask’s fibers, helping to reduce the distance the virus can travel. Science edutainer Bill Nye demonstrated the effect in a pair of TikTok videos using his (in)ability to blow out a candle while wearing various face masks.

 
 
 
 
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11 Comments

  1. Thanks I hope the right people read it. It’s really about knocking the COVID particle down within water droplets rather than the free virus itself.

  2. Today I tried out my Patagonia (50/50 wool/synthetic material) neck gaiter over a surgical mask. Results: The Patagonia gaiter looks better but performs worse than the 100% synthetic REI gaiter.

    Matthew and everyone, for our comments on masks here, it might be helpful for each commenter to say if they live in a jurisdiction where masks are required. Ex: I live in California, where Governor Newsom has been saying he expect everyone to wear a mask when outside their homes. I even keep my mask on in the car when I am driving; that may encourage other drivers to do the same.

  3. If I am the only one in the car why should I wear a mask ?
    I wear glasses to drive and they get foggy when I wear a mask .

    1. Although I haven’t round anything specifically covering personal vehicles, I’d imagine that a personal vehicle would keep you isolated enough that it wouldn’t be necessary to wear a mask in one.

      Oddly, I found that putting my glasses over the top edge of my mask closed the gap enough that it kept the glasses from fogging up. This will vary from mask-to-mask and glasses-to-glasses, of course, but it’s something to try if you’re in a situation where you have to wear both, and haven’t had a chance to try treating the lenses first.

    2. You must be kidding!? Why on the world would you wear a mask alone in your car?!

  4. SHARONKROLL and everyone, California Governor Newsom is asking all of us who are Californians (over the age of 2) to wear a mask whenever away from home. Across the USA, there is a high transmission rate for COVID-19. Many of the UnknownCountry members live outside of the US, so the transmission rates vary around the world for COVID-19. I put on my mask when getting ready to drive away from the house in the car (for medical appointments or other urgent reasons). Wearing a mask in the car keeps me in compliance with our Governor’s request. I also wear glasses to drive; when I use medical translucent tape (or a thin strip of medical waterproof tape) across the top of my surgical mask, it keeps my breath from steaming up my glasses. If you live in a US state or other country with a much lower COVID-19 transmission rate than California, then your jurisdiction may have more relaxed guidelines for COVID-19 protections for you when you are away from your home.

    1. That is ridiculous! I go to my car from my house. The windows are up and the air conditioner is on. How am I going to infect anyone?! When I get to my destination I put my mask on before I get out of the car. I wear reading glasses to read fine print when shopping. But I stopped doing that beause they fog up as well. I am not going to tape and retape every stop I make. There is not a one size fits all mask. The best one I found for me is an N95. It has a metal strip over the nose, but even with that I still fog!

  5. New forecast from Youyang Gu (a recent graduate of MIT) on Twitter regarding his AI-powered COVID-19 data model:

    Youyang Gu
    @youyanggu
    ·
    3h
    I’ve made a major update to http://covid19-projections.com that tries to better account for the increase in cases and the resulting lag in reported deaths.

    I believe new infections have likely peaked, and deaths will likely peak within the next 1-3 weeks.

  6. Wear it if you feel at risk or must in a shop etc but stop with the propaganda. If you are truly at risk walking around outdoors with nobody near you , then you’re not safe in your home either no home is airtight. I’m in California. I dont & wont wear a mask outdoors.

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