Unmasking the Myths Around Masks in COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many stories have emerged around the wearing of masks. Do they help slow the spread of COVID-19? Will wearing a mask prevent you from contracting the virus? Is wearing a mask every day for hours on end bad for your health?
Parents are asking how safe their children will be back at schools where wearing masks will be compulsory. Some parents are concerned their children’s health may be affected negatively by wearing a mask for 6 to 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. While others are worried about their children taking their masks off during the school day because they get tired of wearing them.
In this article, we hope to bring some comfort to you as we uncover the 5 most common untruths about masks and provide you with some factual common sense.
MYTH #1 Wearing a mask for long periods of time can cause carbon dioxide toxicity
This is one of the latest stories doing the rounds and no wonder parents are anxious about sending their children to spend half a day at school in masks. Carbon dioxide poisoning is called hypercapnia and the reason why wearing a mask for any length of time cannot cause hypercapnia is because gaseous molecules such as carbon dioxide and oxygen are so microscopically small they will simply pass through even the toughest mask. Coronavirus particles are still microscopic but not quite as small, which means that masks have some effect in keeping all the viral droplets from penetrating through the mask.
MYTH #2 If you can blow out a flame through your mask, it is no good
This simply is not true. People’s blowing power varies so someone with strong lungs may be able to blow a flame out through the most protective cloth mask.
MYTH #3 Wearing a mask protects us from getting COVID-19
The reason for wearing masks when we are in public is simply to minimize the spread of COVID-19. However, wearing a mask is not guaranteed to protect us from contracting the virus. Since any one of us could be asymptomatic (have COVID-19 but with no symptoms), we all must assume we carry the virus. So, if we all wear masks, it decreases the quantity of viral droplets being sneezed and coughed into the atmosphere. The most effective way of lowering our risk of contracting the virus is by practising social distancing, touching our faces as little as possible when out in public, and washing our hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser.
MYTH #4 There is no need to practise social distancing if you are wearing a mask
Even when you are wearing a mask and out in public you still need to distance yourself from other people by leaving a minimum of 1 metre between you – the ideal distance is 1.5 metres. Greet people by waving rather than shaking hands or hugging them. We must now gently teach our children to be polite and sociable from a distance. Remember, as they return to their schools, this is going to be a much tougher time for them than it will be for you. Be supportive. Talk to them and prepare them for what lies ahead. Let them know they can ask as many questions as they need to and always be truthful and clear with your answers.
MYTH #5 Children do not need to wear masks because they don’t carry the virus
This has not been proven as a scientific fact. Scientists and doctors are still investigating the pathology around COVID-19 but they don’t have anything concrete as yet except that children are at the lowest risk of contracting the virus. The one thing the scientists and doctors do know is that children can carry the virus without showing symptoms, which is why it is so important to teach our children to wear masks, wash hands and practise social distancing at school and in other public places.
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.