Face Mask Myths
By Dr. Julia McNabb
Setting aside the controversy regarding whether the general public should or should not wear a face mask while at businesses or gatherings, there are a number of face mask myths that are circulating in social media. Addressing a few of these myths:
Myth 1: Masks can be made of any material, as long as your face is covered.
The best masks are those that are of a tight weaved material and/or has a filter pocket to help prevent respiratory droplets from passing through the mask. Loose weaved fabric simply cannot stop the passage of droplets well. The primary function of the face mask is to prevent your respiratory droplets from spreading to others. Unfortunately, people can spread Covid-19 disease even when they do not have symptoms. A study from the University of Arizona, Covid-19 and use of non-traditional masks , found that non-traditional masks reduced the risk of infection by 24 percent for a simple cotton covering to upward of 99 percent for a professional, medical-grade filtration mask.
Myth 2: Wearing a medical grade mask (surgical) causes you to breathe in more carbon dioxide, leading to carbon dioxide intoxication.
This simply doesn’t happen when wearing a surgical mask. In fact, the only way for this to happen would be, if you are wearing an occlusive fabric i.e. plastic sack, that prevents air passage entirely and is closely sealed to the face. (This is not recommended.) Inhaled air by volume is about 79 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and the remainder a mixture of other gases, including argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium, and hydrogen. Exhaled air is about 79 percent nitrogen, 14-16 percent oxygen, 5 percent carbon dioxide, 5-6 percent water vapor, and again a mixture of other gases.
So yes, the exhaled air has a higher amount of carbon dioxide than inhaled air, but when a person takes another breath in, it will include some of that exhaled air plus air pulled in through and around the mask. An air concentration of 10 percent or higher of carbon dioxide can lead to carbon dioxide intoxication. The air breathed in, while wearing a mask, is markedly less than 5 percent carbon dioxide.
Myth 3: Masks will weaken your immune system.
Presumably, the idea is that the human immune system is strengthened by exposure to bacteria and other pathogens. This is true. However, there are many routes to this exposure. The American Lung Association says there’s no scientific evidence that wearing a mask weakens the immune system. Our immune systems protect us from pathogens. The major organs to do this is our skin, the protective mechanisms of the nose and mouth, and intestines. In fact, more than 40 percent of our immune systems are part of the intestinal wall.
There are a number of ways to strengthen the immune system. One of the best is to limit the amount of sugar in the diet, and if diabetic – control blood sugar to an appropriate range. Sugar is a cause of inflammation and suppresses the production of white blood cells. The main working agent of the immune system. Other ways to strengthen the immune system are to eat well – good nutrients, such as colorful vegetables, lean proteins, get quality sleep from 7 to 8 hours for adults, and get regular exercise.
Myth 4: If you’ve had Covid-19 and recovered, you don’t need to wear a mask.
If you’ve had Covid-19, you may be tempted to not wear a mask. Unfortunately, there is a lot still unknown about the disease. One of these is how long or if you will have developed
immunity. Further, if you have developed immunity to Covid-19, is it only to a particular strain of the coronavirus, much like what is seen with Influenza infections? Numerous research labs are studying this, as they work toward developing a vaccine.