COVID-19 mask myths busted: Yes, masks work. No, they do not cause oxygen deficiency

COVID-19 mask myths
COVID-19 and mask confusion: Separating myths from realities

Misinformation about masking have spread almost as quickly as the virus. However, despite the mixed signals, wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands as often as possible.

COVID-19 pandemic has made people embrace masks. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways to limit the spread of coronavirus. Face masks keep the coronavirus reproduction number or R0, the rate at which a single infected person infects secondary individuals, under 1.0. But there are still a lot of myths about masks that have permeated the society in the face of COVID-19. Also Read: COVID-19 treatment: Steroids may improve survival rate of critically ill patients, study says

As we learn more about the virus and how it is spread, recommendations have changed. That may have been the basis for distrust in what people are hearing from experts. However, masks are important in times of COVID-19 and its time to debunk four such myths. Also Read: Mental health in India: Depression cases and suicidal tendencies rise due to COVID-19

1. Myth: The mask does not protect the wearer

Truth: Masks actually protect both the wearer and others around them. The No. 1 goal of masks is to contain people’s germs and prevent them from reaching others.

A recent study found that if an individual is unmasked, their droplets can travel about eight feet. But if you are wearing a mask, droplets travel less than one foot. Also Read: COVID-19 treatment: Steroids may improve survival rate of critically ill patients, study says

In a health care setting, the benefits may be even more pronounced, as medical masks meet special filtration requirements, which offer added protection.

2. Myth: Masks must have exhalation valves. They are more comfortable and offer the same amount of protection

Truth: Masks with exhalation valves are not nearly as safe and do not limit the spread of COVID-19. Exhalation valves allow germs/droplets to be expelled into the air around you, putting others at risk.

If a patient goes out with an exhalation valve mask, they should be asked to cover the valve with a regular mask or change into a regular mask. There is very little protection offered by masks with exhalation valves.

3. Myth: Carbon dioxide can build inside the masks and can be dangerous if worn for long periods of time

Truth: Wearing a mask is a safe practice and there is no science that supports build-up of CO2. CO2 particles are extremely small, unlike viral loads, and can pass through masks. That’s even the case for a higher protection mask like an N95.

Studies on health care workers wearing tight-fitting N95 respirators have also not shown concerning increases in CO2 levels.

4. Myth: Mask wearers don’t need to social distance

Truth: Social distancing together with wearing mask is the most effective combination in limiting the spread of COVID-19.Also Read: Coronavirus and Pregnancy: Bringing new life into the world during COVID-19 pandemic

As previously mentioned, wearing a mask limits droplet spread to about one foot. But that doesn’t eliminate it altogether. Additionally, all of the scientific data and recommendations assume masks are being worn properly by everyone.

If you do have to be closer than six feet, masks become even more critical. And vice versa, if you need to remove your mask to eat or drink, staying six feet apart is essential.

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