Kimberly Frodl, M.D.
Wearing face masks, combined with other preventive measures such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, can help slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask while in public settings. However, there has been much debate about wearing masks and misinformation has spread online.
Myth: I'm not sick so I don't need to wear a mask.
Simply put, wearing a cloth mask helps decrease the spread of COVID-19. Research now has shown that a significant number of people with COVID-19 lack symptoms. These people do not know they are transmitting the virus to others when they talk, sneeze, cough or raise their voice (e.g. singing or shouting). Wearing a mask helps to lower the transmission of respiratory droplets to other people around you. You should wear a mask to protect others and they should wear masks to protect you.
Myth: Wearing a cloth mask does not protect you from getting COVID-19.
A cloth mask is worn to help protect others in case you have the virus. Countries that required face masks, testing, isolation and social distancing early in the pandemic seem to have had some success slowing the disease's spread. Common sense also suggests that some protection is better than none.
Cloth masks reduce the number of respiratory droplets a person releases into the air when talking, sneezing or coughing. The overall number of droplets in the air is reduced when more people wear masks and this reduces the risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
Myth: Wearing a mask will increase the amount of carbon dioxide I breathe and will make me sick.
For many years, health care providers have worn masks for extended periods of time with no adverse health reactions. The CDC recommends wearing cloth masks while in public and this option is very breathable. There is no risk of hypoxia, which is lower oxygen levels, in healthy adults. Carbon dioxide will freely diffuse through your mask as you breathe.
If you feel uncomfortable in your mask, try to limit your talking and breathe through your nose. That will reduce the humidity level in your mask.
Myth: If I'm wearing a mask, I don't need to practice social distancing.
Wearing a mask is one step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. In addition to wearing a mask, everyone should continue to practice recommended behaviors to such as:
- Keep your physical distance: Six feet or about two arms’ lengths apart from other people.
- Limit in-person meetings.
- Wash your hands with soap often.
- Stay home if you do not feel well.
- Get a test if you have COVID -19 symptoms. Call your local health care provider to schedule a test.
- Self-isolate if you have been around someone who is sick or tested positive.
Learn more about face masks: