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Seven myths about face masks debunked

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, July 30, 2020  /  03:56 pm
Seven myths about face masks debunked

he safest thing to do is to wear a mask any time you are around people from outside your household to lower the risk of spreading respiratory droplets. (Shutterstock/Hananeko_Studio)

Wearing a face mask in public has become a widely implemented regulation during the pandemic to prevent the spread of respiratory particles from coughing or sneezing.

Some who opposed the usage of masks at first have been swayed as well, including United States President Donald Trump, who eventually wore a mask and called it a “patriotic act”. However, misinformation about how the novel coronavirus is transmitted and mask-wearing has continued to circulate, including in Indonesia. 

Whether it’s about the material your mask is made from or what happens to your body when you wear it, here are seven myths about wearing masks during the pandemic as compiled by CNET from sources like the US Center for Disease Contro (CDC) and the World Health Organization. 

The virus isn’t real, so there’s no need to wear a mask

As of July 30, 17.19 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 670,322 deaths have been reported worldwide. However, some still believe that the virus is a hoax, with Marketwatch reporting that one in three Americans believe the novel coronavirus hasn’t killed as many people as reported. 

Many attribute their disbelief from a 26-minute conspiracy video titled Plandemic that has gone viral on social media, even though its theories have been repeatedly debunked by medical and scientific communities.

You or those around you may not be aware that you have the virus because you may be asymptomatic, presymptomatic or you might mistake your symptoms for another disease (like a fever), so wearing a face mask when you go out or meet other people is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Masks can be made from any material

Mesh and lace masks have been sold as the pandemic intensifies, with sellers claiming that they are more breathable. However, these masks don’t prevent respiratory droplets from spreading.

The most effective masks are made from a tight-knit material with a filter pocket that trap droplets from passing through the mask and into our noses and mouths. These are the N95 masks, which block 95 percent of all particles, including viruses. This is supported by a study from the University of Arizona that concluded that wearing a face-covering reduces the risk of infection by 24 percent for a simple cotton covering (fabric masks) and up to 99 percent for medical-grade filtration masks.

Only infected people should wear masks

This is particularly harmful because as previously mentioned, those who have the disease might not have visible symptoms while still being able to spread it, according to the CDC.

Although the WHO initially supported that healthy people don’t need to wear masks, it revoked its statement and updated its official recommendation.

The safest thing to do is to wear a mask any time you are around people from outside your household to lower the risk of spreading respiratory droplets.

There is increasing evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 may be airborne, which means people may be infected from breathing in contaminated air. Wearing a mask creates a barrier that traps infected droplets from spreading from the emitter, so it will also prevent you from breathing in contaminated air. 

Wearing a medical mask causes you to inhale more carbon dioxide

Masks that are worn properly cover the bridge of the nose (it is recommended that you pinch the mask to your nose) and extend below the chin with no gaps on the sides, leaving your nose and mouth completely covered.

Some say that wearing medical masks traps carbon dioxide that you have exhaled and forces you to breathe it back in, which has been refuted by the WHO, which said that prolonged use of surgical masks does not lead to CO2 intoxication or lack of oxygen.

You don’t have to social distance if you’re wearing a mask

Wearing masks reduces your chance of contracting or spreading the novel coronavirus, but it is not enough to be your only precaution. Unlike N95 masks that are certified, face masks you buy or make at home only have one layer of fabric instead of three and don’t have a filter.

Physical distancing means that you are putting more space between you and others, which will stop the virus from spreading as rapidly.

Masks weaken your immune system

The American Lung Association has specifically stated that there is no scientific evidence that wearing a mask weakens the immune system.

However, there is evidence that young, healthy people with no preexisting conditions can and do become severely ill from COVID-19. In the US state of California, the age group 18-34 had the highest number of reported cases of the disease as of July 26.

Taking measures like wearing a mask and washing your hands will not negatively impact your immune system, especially in adults who already have developed immune systems, according to Beaumont Health.

Cloth masks offer no protection from the virus

Initially, experts were hesitant about the effectiveness of cloth face coverings in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, studies have shown that a covering of the nose and mouth acts as a physical barrier against respiratory droplets that might be infected with the virus.

Even if cloth coverings don’t completely prevent the spread of COVID-19, CDC director Robert Redfield said on July 14 that if everyone wore a mask, the disease could be contained. This has been proven by countries that required the use of masks earlier in the pandemic and have since flattened their transmission curve, according to the Mayo Clinic. (car/kes)

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