There is so much that we do not yet know about the new corona virus. It is understandable that people are afraid and have questions. One of the most pressing is: are masks safe? The short and extremely reassuring answer is: yes, it is not only safe to wear masks to curb the spread of this dangerous disease – it is important. “Research has shown that wearing masks is very effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Mary Elizabeth Sexton, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Medical School at Emory University in Atlanta, told SELF.
The good news is that the vast majority of people in the US came on board with masks. In a nationally representative Pew Research survey released in June, 80% of 9,654 respondents said they wore a mask at least temporarily in stores or other companies, and 65% said they had done it “all or most of the time”
If you or your loved ones still have questions about why wearing a mask is helpful and not harmful, you should know the following.
It is not true that masks cut off your oxygen or let you breathe in carbon dioxide.
As all experts interviewed by SELF report, wearing a mask does not increase the likelihood of breathing problems such as hypoxemia (low blood oxygen level) or hypercapnia (increased carbon dioxide levels in the blood). Masks prevent you from spreading as many breath droplets and aerosols in the air as normal, which can significantly inhibit the spread of COVID-19. We will briefly explain how this works in detail. However, from the start, it’s important to know that masks still allow the free flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide that you need to stay alive. Enid Neptune, MD, associate professor of medicine and pulmonary and intensive care doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, tells SELF. It is perfectly understandable that people could be concerned about this because wearing masks can make breathing easier feeling Heavier. However, this does not mean that wearing a mask dangerously limits oxygen intake or carbon dioxide emissions, even if you have to snort and snort while wearing it.
An oxygen molecule is made up of only two atoms, while a carbon dioxide molecule is made up of three atoms, making both gases dramatically smaller than breath droplets or aerosols containing SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. “Viral particles are initially hundreds of times larger than oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules, but that still underestimates the size difference,” Mary Elizabeth Sexton, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, told SELF. Viruses in the coronavirus family are typically between 120 and 160 nanometers in diameter compared to oxygen molecules that are approximately 0.35 nanometers in size and carbon dioxide molecules that are approximately 0.33 nanometers in size. In addition, these viruses are contained in breath droplets or aerosols, both of which are significantly larger than the virus itself, explains Neptune. Translation: Oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are small enough that even the tightest tissue and surgical mask tissues should not significantly affect their passage, Sexton says.
There is yet another solid evidence that you don’t have to be afraid that wearing a mask can lead to severe breathing problems: “Both hypercapnia and hypoxemia make people sleepy and confused, but surgeons operate in very small, critical areas of the body.” Body with great skill in wearing masks, sometimes 8 to 12 hours at a time. If people really had a negative impact on oxygen or carbon dioxide levels when wearing a mask, surgeons would not be able to do their job, ”says Sexton.
The only evidence that masks may interfere with the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide when worn for long periods of time is N95 masks, which have special filters to block at least 95% of the particles in the air – and finer tissues as surgical or homemade masks. Even then, it is not final. A small study from 2006 in Acta Neurologica Scandinavica suggested that healthcare workers who wore N95 masks continuously for more than four hours developed headaches. Theoretically, this could indicate hypercapnia or hypoxemia, but it could also simply be due to the physical strain that an N95 puts on a person’s face and head, the study authors wrote.