Mask myths: Setting the record straight on face masks and COVID-19
If you use social media, you’ve probably seen posts suggesting cloth masks don’t work or that they make you sick. Saria Saccocio, MD, Prisma Health Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer, addressed these and other common misconceptions.
Myth 1: Wearing a cloth mask doesn’t do anything.
Respiratory droplets are the way COVID-19 spreads from one person to another, and cloth masks help catch these droplets. There’s no perfect tool that offers 100% protection, so we need to use the best tools available to us. Something is better than nothing, and everything we can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 needs to be our focus as a community. Just be sure your masks use layered material, wash them, and replace them over time.
Myth 2: It’s fine to only cover my mouth with the mask.
It’s very important that both your nose and your mouth are covered. There are many reasons for this. When you sneeze, does it only come out of your nose, or does it come out of your mouth? When you cough, is it only coming out of your mouth? To prevent the spread, it requires the covering of your nose and your mouth. Make sure the mask fits around your face. If you’re standing beside someone and you can feel their breath on you, viral particles can be transferred to you.
Myth 3: Wearing a mask can make you sick.
We have individuals who perhaps have medical conditions that make it difficult to breathe, and we want to be sensitive to their needs. They’re also at the greatest risk of having severe complications if they contract COVID-19. So, I would say pace yourself. Make sure that the temperature is reasonable when you go out. Avoid running errands or going outside when the weather is hot. Go in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler. Wear your mask as much as possible.
There are times when individuals absolutely cannot wear a mask, but, typically, that is the rare exception from a medical perspective. In those cases, my recommendation as a physician is to stay home as much as possible. If someone else can run your errands, that’s good. If you need to have a doctor’s visit, it’s best to use a virtual visit, unless you absolutely need to be seen for an exam. We’ve all got to have a heightened awareness of the risks around us.
Myth 4: I don’t have symptoms, so I don’t need to wear a mask.
Asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus through droplets, so it’s important for everyone to wear a mask. Your mask protects them, and their mask protects you. Together, we can help slow the spread. We are all responsible for the spread of COVID-19.
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