Healthy Living: Addressing Mask Myths

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In Pennsylvania, masks are mandatory. The Governor says when you leave your home, a mask is critical as part of the mitigation effort against the Coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers and scientists also support this, saying a cloth covering protects you and others from transmitting the virus but still, some people are not convinced.

There are many myths surrounding masks including how they work, who needs to wear one, if the mask acts as a barrier to breathing or rather if it is trapping harmful carbon dioxide.

Amanda Peterson took these claims to Dr. Lee Maddox, Medical Director, Pulmonary and Critical Care at Wellspan asking for his thoughts.

Dr. Maddox explained research shows Coronavirus is spread through aerosols generated by breathing heavily, coughing, or sneezing and wearing a mask creates a barrier, catching those aerosols.

But he says he understands the confusion about why to wear a mask.

Myth 1: Not wearing a mask because you are not worried about getting Coronavirus

Dr. Maddox explained that wearing a mask is not to protect you from getting the virus but rather to protect those around you. He says you could be sick and not know or be asymptomatic and if you pass it to someone else, they could end up hospitalized or worse.

Myth 2: Wearing a mask will cause you to inhale harmful carbon dioxide

Dr. Maddox says the molecules are too small for that to happen.

Myth 3: Masks limit my ability to breathe

Dr. Maddox says unless you’re wearing a plastic bag as a mask or something made of nylon, a mask will not impact your breathing. He says you may have the sensation of being short of breath but that will not medically harm you or your oxygenation.

If you get the short of breath feeling, Dr. Maddox suggests trying a desensitization strategy of wearing your mask for short periods of time in a cool, calm place. This will allow you to get used to having the cloth on your face.

There are extremely few cases where people should not wear a mask, says Dr. Maddox. He cited some small children, people with extreme anxiety or psychological issues and some people with lung disease.

Dr. Maddox says wearing a mask will not harm those people but rather they are not capable of wearing it for other reasons.

When you wear a mask, Dr. Maddox says to make sure it covers your nose and mouth and suggests a mask made of cotton, which has been said to be the most comfortable material.

He says no mask is going to be perfect but it will help to reduce the probability of transmitting Coronavirus.

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