Unmasking the myths around face coverings

Feb 16, 2021

One of the biggest debates during the Covid-19 pandemic has been the effectiveness of wearing a face covering to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. This is due to the number of misconceptions that exist about face masks.

Evidence has in fact proven that by wearing face masks, droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking are less likely to be spread, which in turn helps to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Once confined to hospital and health care settings, wearing a face mask has become the norm and mandatory in societies around the world, especially in busy public places such as public transport, supermarkets, restaurants, and even outdoors when exercising. However, conflicting evidence released by various health bodies and posts shared on social media, has led to many debating whether they are effective in stopping the deadly virus.

Do they stop the spread of the virus? Are the public wearing them correctly? Is one enough? What type of face covering is most effective? Are they doing more harm than good?

These are just some of the highly debated points that have been discussed throughout the pandemic.

The latest research from the U.S. has suggested that wearing two masks at the same time could give better protection against coronavirus and prevent air leaks.

With news of contagious variants of the virus now circulating, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has suggested that wearing two face coverings will provide a better fit, and in turn, more protection.

The CDC provided guidance for the wearer, including choosing a mask or face covering with a nose wire; to check it fits snugly over the mouth, nose and chin; and to ensure it has at least a couple of layers.

So with this evidence in mind, we thought we would gather together further guidance and evidence to dispel the myths surrounding face masks…

If I wear a mask, I don’t have to practice social distancing

No.Regular hand washing and social distancing are just as important, and together and with consistency, prevention works best.

The main purpose of face coverings is to protect other people from coronavirus, rather than yourself. This means that if everyone wears one, the risk for all goes down.

Masks can help to reduce the spread of the virus from people who are contagious, including those who have no symptoms.

Prof Paul Edelstein from the University of Pennsylvania, who reported on the effectiveness of masks and other coverings, said there was also “some evidence” they protected the wearer.

Face masks can be worn multiple times and don’t need to be cleaned

Single-use masks should be disposed of after a single use and should not be reused. Re-usable cloth coverings should be washed after each use. This is due to research that has shown that the coronavirus can last on different surfaces for varying amounts of time.

Wearing a mask is dangerous

One myth circulating is that wearing a mask is dangerous because it doesn’t allow enough oxygen and causes you to breathe in too much carbon dioxide.

The World Health Organization disagrees, saying that prolonged use of masks can be uncomfortable but does not lead to carbon dioxide intoxication or oxygen deficiency.

Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals wear masks every day and often for long durations.

How to: put on and take off a face mask

Firstly, always use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before handling or putting on your mask/covering. Use the ear loops and place the mask over your nose, chin and mouth, ensuring the mask covers firmly. Try to avoid touching the mask itself and ensure there are no gaps.

To remove the mask, carefully lift the loops from behind your ears, ensuring again you do not touch the front of the mask.

Quick tips on how to NOT wear a mask:

  • Do not wear it around your chin
  • Do not wear it on your forehead
  • Do not share a mask
  • Do not touch the front of your mask
  • Do not wear loose-fitting mask
  • Do not leave your nose uncovered

You can find further guidance on face mask/coverings on the World Health Organisation website. When and how to use masks (who.int)

Ref: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51205344