8 COVID face mask myths that put you in danger

Statue of Liberty wearing a face mask to protect against Coronavirus

Properly worn face masks have been shown to protect you and others from COVID-19, but misinformation continues.

James Martin / CNET

Visit the websites of the WHO and the CDC for the most up-to-date news and information on the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization agree on this wearing face mask over your nose and mouth is a proven way to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 800,000 Americans.

Mask mandates has returned in several states as a result of the highly transferable omicron variant. In December, President Joe Biden extended the federal mask mandate – which applies to people who ride buses, trains and planes, and enter federal buildings – to March 18, 2022.

To help you stay safe and informed during the pandemic, we have addressed the most common misconceptions about face masks and how they have been rejected by medical experts. For more, get the latest on home COVID tests, what to know about Merck’s and Pfizers COVID pills, and about CDC will redefine “fully vaccinated” to include booster shots.

Myth 1: You do not need a mask if you are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID

When the COVID-19 vaccines were first administered, the CDC and WHO changed their guidelines to say that those who were fully vaccinated no longer needed to wear masks. However, these guidelines changed as the highly contagious and deadly delta variant caused the spread breakthrough infections among vaccinated persons.

As COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective and everyone can carry and spread coronavirus, both the WHO and the CDC recommend that everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks while indoors in public places.

Myth 2: Fabric masks are OK to wear alone

In the early days of the pandemic, while masks like the N95s were in high demand and reserved for frontline healthcare professionals, experts agreed to wear fabric masks. Although a fabric mask is better than nothing, it is now recommended to wear it over a more protective mask so you are double masking.

If a fabric mask is all you have, it can still act as a physical barrier by absorbing airway droplets that can carry and spread coronavirus. Although a drug cover alone may not completely prevent someone from getting coronavirus, it still reduces its spread.

“Are they as effective as an N95? No. They have a degree of effectiveness. And if that’s the mask available to you, use it,” said White House Chief Physician Dr. Anthony Fauci on cotton masks on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

The most protective masks, N95 respirators, block 95% of small particles, including viruses, and are much easier to find now than they were at the beginning of the pandemic. Learn which ones there are the best face masks to stop COVID-19 and where to buy them.

Read more: These face masks were made for children only

Myth 3: Only people who are sick with COVID should wear face masks

If you do not experience Symptoms of covid-19, it does not necessarily mean that you are not infected: the CDC cites more than a dozen studies indicating that asymptomatic or presymptomatic people can still spread the virus.

If you are going out in public or want to be around people who are not part of your household, wear a face mask to protect them even if you are vaccinated. You may be sick without being aware of it, either because you are asymptomatic, presymptomatic, or blame mild symptoms on other causes, such as allergies. People who are easily affected can still spread the virus to others, including those at higher risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19.

After extensive debate, scientists and medical experts generally agree COVID-19 is an airborne virus: Wearing a mask forms a barrier that catches virus-containing droplets emitted by the wearer. In other words, if you do not wear a mask and you breathe in the same air as an infected person who also does not wear a mask, your risk of getting coronavirus increases dramatically.

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Even fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear face masks.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Myth 4: Wearing a mask only protects you from infecting others

According to the CDC, while the primary function of masks is to block the release of “exhaled airborne particles into the environment,” several studies have shown that substance masks can also reduce the user’s exposure to infectious droplets through filtration – including particles smaller than 10 microns.

“Multiple layers of fabric with higher thread count have shown superior performance compared to single layers of fabric with lower thread count,” the agency wrote in a release, “in some cases, almost 50% of fine particles filter less than 1 micron.”

Some materials, such as polypropylene, can improve filtration by generating static electricity that improves the capture of charged particles.

In addition to the material and number of layers on your mask, an improvement in its fit can also improve the filtration. “Examples include, but are not limited to, mask fiters, knot-and-tucking of ear straps on medical procedure masks, use of a fabric mask placed over a medical procedure mask, and nylon stocking sleeves,” the CDC said.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, argued in a 2020 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that even if someone becomes infected with COVID-19, wearing a mask can reduce the severity of their illness. The mask “reduces the ‘inoculum’ or dose of virus to the mask wearer, leading to milder and asymptomatic manifestations of infection,” Gandhi wrote.

Myth 5: It is dangerous to wear a mask due to carbon dioxide

When worn correctly, stitches completely cover your nose and mouth – from the bridge of the nose (above the nostrils) down under the chin, with no holes on the sides.

Some people have suggested that surgical masks capture exhaled carbon dioxide and cause the user to inhale more CO2. This myth gained much attention after a June 2021 letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested high levels of carbon dioxide in children wearing surgical masks. JAMA withdrew the report two weeks later, citing problems with the study’s methodology, data and conclusions.

WHO confirms that long-term use of surgical masks does not lead to CO2 poisoning or lack of oxygen. And research from the American Thoracic Society showed that face masks do not generate dangerous levels of carbon dioxide, even in patients with severe lung disease.

As Fast.ai notes, COVID-19 particles are 100 nanometers in diameter, while carbon dioxide molecules are only 0.33 nanometers, exponentially smaller and almost impossible to be blocked by meshes.

Myth 6: You do not have to take social distance while wearing a mask

People wear masks when in public or with strangers to reduce their chances of getting or spreading coronavirus. But the WHO says that the use of masks alone is not enough to provide a sufficient amount of protection. In contrast to N95 masks, which undergo a certification process, there is no regulatory authority that regulates materials or the production of fabric masks.

In addition to wearing a mask properly, you should continue to practice physical distancing, washing your hands often and avoiding touching your face. The CDC still recommends staying at least 6 feet away from people whenever possible, even when masked.

Myth 7: Wearing face masks weakens your immune system

The myth of weakened immune system stems from the idea that the human immune system is strengthened by exposure to bacteria and other pathogens.

The American Lung Association says there is no scientific evidence that wearing a mask weakens the immune system. But even young and healthy people, without pre-existing conditions, can catch and spread COVID-19: As of December 29, 18- to 34-year-olds were the demographic with the highest number of reported cases in California, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Washing your hands and wearing a mask will not adversely affect your immune system, especially in adults. In fact, researchers at the National Institutes of Health published a study in February that suggests that face masks may in fact Help your immune system. The moisture created by masks hydrates the airways and creates proteins called interferons that strengthen your immune system and add additional protection against COVID-19.

Myth 8: You do not have to wear a mask outside

Research has shown that the chances of spreading COVID-19 outdoors are as much as 19 times lower than spreading it indoors, but you should still wear a mask outside areas where physical distance is not possible. For example, if you are hiking on a busy trail, going to an outdoor concert or enjoying an amusement park.

You do not have to wear a mask outdoors if you run in a secluded area or if you spend time in your own backyard with the people you live with. However, if you are planning to go to a crowded outdoor area, you should (and may be required to) mask yourself.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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