6 mask myths debunked
Months into the pandemic, misinformation about masks continues to spread via social media and other means. It can be difficult to distinguish truth from fiction.
Here are some myths you may have heard and the truth as best we know it right now.
MYTH: You don’t need to wear a mask because you already had COVID-19 and recovered.
TRUTH: We do not yet know if people who have recovered from COVID-19 are immune to getting infected again and if so for how long. Therefore, even if you have had COVID-19 you should still continue to wear a mask. Also, remember that flu season is coming up and wearing a mask will help you from spreading the flu to others.
MYTH: I don’t need to wear a mask because I don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19.
TRUTH: Many people (up to 40%) with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms of the disease. If you have the virus but don’t have any symptoms you are still able to transmit it to others.
MYTH: Masks will prevent me from getting enough oxygen and will cause me to breathe in too much carbon dioxide.
TRUTH: There is no credible scientific evidence that masks hinder the ability to breathe in oxygen or breathe out carbon dioxide, even while exercising or wearing them for many hours a day.
MYTH: If I am wearing a mask, I don’t have to continue social distancing.
TRUTH: While wearing a mask reduces the chance of your spreading the infection to others, you can still catch it from someone else who is close to you. Therefore, it remains extremely important to do both: wear a mask and maintain social distance.
MYTH: Masks don’t prevent the spread of COVID-19 because the virus is smaller than the pores in the mask.
TRUTH: Although the virus that causes COVID-19 is smaller than the pores in most facial coverings (e.g. surgical and cloth masks), the virus is usually contained in larger droplets which are effectively blocked by the facial coverings. Even though droplets can still escape through the facial covering, they usually travel a much shorter distance (compared to no facial covering) and then fall to the ground.
MYTH: I need to wear an N95 mask to protect myself against COVID-19.
TRUTH: Masks work primarily by preventing you from transmitting the virus to others. For that purpose, most facial coverings (e.g. surgical and cloth masks) are effective. N95 masks should be reserved for health care providers who may be caring for patients with COVID-19 infection. If you do wear an N95 mask, make sure it does not have an exhalation valve because those types of masks do not prevent transmission of the virus.
Dr. Robert Citronberg is Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention for Advocate Aurora Health.
About the Author
Dr. Robert Citronberg is an infectious disease expert at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.