Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe: Get the Mask Facts

Wearing a face mask may smudge your lipstick or fog up your glasses, but it’s a very important part of slowing down the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mask-wearing because COVID-19 is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets that are generated when we cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or even just breathe. Wearing a face mask has two beneficial effects – it reduces the amount of virus-laden droplets the wearer emits and it protects the wearer from any droplets being emitted by others.

It’s important to wear a face mask even if you don’t have any symptoms. Recent research drawing on data from eight separate COVID-19 studies found that 59 percent of people with COVID-19 were infected by someone not showing symptoms. (Harvard study)

Wearing a face mask is an effective, easy, and safe way to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Numerous studies have proved the safety of wearing a face mask: Healthy adults, older adults and adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) reported no to minimal changes in oxygen or carbon dioxide while wearing a mask. (CDC site)

The safety and effectiveness of children wearing masks has been studied, as well. Numerous studies involving children ages 3 and up found no adverse heart rate or blood oxygen level effects in kids wearing a cloth mask. (CDC site)

Children under the age of 2, as well as anyone who is unconscious or unable to remove a face covering on their own should not wear a mask due to the risk of suffocation. (Healthy Children link)

Despite the research, some myths about wearing masks are still in circulation. As we said above, wearing a mask might fog your glasses or smear your lipstick, but wearing a mask:

  • Won’t cause too much carbon dioxide in the blood, a condition called hypercapnia, that some people mistakenly believe arises from breathing in more of your exhaled breath than you would without a mask. Carbon dioxide molecules are small enough to pass through cloth or surgical mask material. (The virus that causes COVID-19 is much larger than oxygen or carbon dioxide molecules.) (CDC CO2)
  • Will not weaken your immune system. “Wearing a mask won’t prevent your body from building immunity to colds or viruses,” said FHN Family Medicine physician Kathleen Ehlbeck, DO. “It doesn’t weaken your immune system at all, and your body will continue to work as it’s meant to.”
  • Does not make you more susceptible to common germs like colds and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). “Wearing a mask actually can help your body fight off germs, because it traps the moisture that escapes when you exhale,” Dr. Ehlbeck said. “That raises the level of moisture (humidity) in your airways, which helps them fight off dust, pollutants, and viruses.”

“Wearing a mask can be uncomfortable, but wearing a mask while you are in close contact with people who aren’t part of your family group isn’t going to harm you or your children,” Dr. Ehlbeck said. “Please wear your mask to protect yourself and others, and to help us stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Dr. Ehlbeck shared these tips to make sure you are wearing your mask correctly:

  • Wear your mask over both your mouth and nose
  • Wear a clean mask
  • Don’t touch the front part of your mask. “Consider the outside of your mask contaminated,” Dr. Ehlbeck said. “If you touch it, wash or sanitize your hands.”

“It’s best to try not to touch your face at all, since that is an easy way to get sick,” Dr. Ehlbeck said. “Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth gives those germs a ride straight into your body, so be mindful of your hands!”