Should I Wear a Mask?
A major question asked today is whether or not you should wear a mask. When the pandemic first started, experts didn’t realize how people with COVID-19 could spread the virus before symptoms appeared. Or that people could have COVID-19 without exhibiting symptoms. Wearing a facemask is now one of the recommendations to help slow the spread of the virus.
Below are answers to some mask-wearing myths:
- Cloth masks don’t provide protection.
Wearing a cloth face mask is an effective measure as a barrier between your mouth and nose and those around you. A mask makes it more difficult for the droplets that spread the COVID-19 virus through coughs, sneezes, and talking to come into contact with others.
Cloth masks keep you from unknowingly spreading the virus to others and can act as a reminder not to touch your face.
- Wearing a mask can cause carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up.
Cloth masks are typically loose-fitting, allowing air to flow in and out and permitting normal respiratory functions yet while limiting the release of respiratory droplets that may contain the COVID-19 virus.
- I only need to wear a mask if I am feeling sick.
According to the CDC and other medical experts, many with COVID-19 exhibit no symptoms. You may have the virus and unknowingly spread it to others, including those in the highest risk demographic (adults over age 60 and those with underlying medical conditions). Asymptomatic carriers can increase the disease’s spread if they aren’t taking proper precautions, including wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently, and practicing social distancing.
- It isn’t important how I wear my mask.
It is important how you wear your mask for it to be effective. Your mask should:
- Cover both your nose and mouth
- Fit snugly but comfortably against your face
- Secured with ties or ear loops
- Allow for unrestricted breathing
- Must be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or shape change
It can be hard to get used to wearing a mask. Start out wearing it around your home for a short time. As it becomes more comfortable, wear it for a more extended time. Make sure you find the mask that fits best for your face.
If you have concerns about wearing a mask, talk with your doctor about how to protect yourself and others during this time.
Michael Hemphill, MD
Pulmonology and Critical Care