7 Myths & Facts About Face Masks

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Young woman on the street wearing face protective mask to prevent Coronavirus and anti-smog

Before the pandemic face masks were only ever used by very few people in the world. It was either used to stay away from allergen or due to pollution. COVID-19 however brought with it a huge influx of people who wear face masks everyday around the globe. Even though there are a lot of people wearing face masks everyday, there are also a whole lot of myths about masks that have come about. As with the rest of misinformation about the disease, face masks have their own myths clinging to them.

Face masks have been involved in quite a few debates online or in real life. While some believe that masks completely guarantee safety from the pandemic, there are others who refuse to wear any at all. In fact, there are many people around the world who simply do not believe that masks can help them stay protected against the virus. Neither of them are facts of course. To ensure that myths and rumours about face masks don’t get in the way of facts, this article will bring these to the light.

Myth – Masks only protect the wearer

Fact – It is the belief of a large number of people that masks only protect the wearer. While it is understandable why anyone might think so, especially since masks don’t usually have filters. Yet even medical masks are made in such a way that blocks respiratory secretions from spreading to others while talking or sneezing. These viruses might spread even while simply breathing, but with a mask, others around will stay protected.

In fact, as per physician Leann Poston, MD, medical content contributor for Invigor Medica, “Masks are used to contain your respiratory secretions and protect others from you”. This should be proof enough for those naysayers that believe masks don’t protect others. Wearing masks is not something to be feared. Instead, it’s a sign of being socially responsible.

Myth – Masks made to prevent pollutants don’t help with COVID

Fact – Even if people use an anti-pollution mask for protection against the virus, it would still be an effective choice. Essentially, masks are made to prevent particles from getting into the wearer’s mouth or nostrils. These masks operate on the same basis and keep our viral and bacterial particles of a similar level of sizes. If masks are built to keep anyone safe from pollutants, they are good enough in many cases to keep people safe from microbes and respiratory secretions.

Myth – Homemade masks are ineffective

Fact – It is true that different types of masks offer different levels of protection. That doesn’t however mean that non-medical masks offer no protection at all. It is true that medical-grade masks offer better protection by filtering out the smallest viral particles. Yet medical professionals are also on the frontline and at an increased risk to contract the disease. 

People in India come in close contact with each other every day, which is why, having any mask on is better than not having one at all. Each type of mask comes with its own protection and comfort level. Which is why if its intensive work being done, a homemade cloth mask is much better than an N95 for instance. When outside the house, everyone should wear a mask, whether it’s made at home or not.

Myth – N95 masks should only be worn by medical professionals

Fact – Initially n95 masks were in scarcity as everyone started buying it up to protect themselves. Medical professionals who are one of the essential workers, had almost no access to these. Since the pandemic was unexpected,  there was only a short supply of N95 masks left to use. It was then decided to conserve N95 masks only for medical professionals.

In the last few months however, the production of these masks have gone up significantly and are available throughout India. There are plenty of face mask dealers who sell good quality masks nowadays. This is why anyone can buy one of those N95 masks for daily use. N95 masks have the advantage of filtering out small as well as larger particles, and so is seen as the best choice to go for.

Myth – Social distancing is only for them who wear no masks

Fact – Wearing masks can help filter out microbial particles primarily for the wearer. It also keeps viral residues from spreading to others if the wearer is infected. Which is why it’s always best to wear a mask even while social distancing. According to David Cutler, MD, staying safe from coronavirus needs more than just wearing a mask. Pairing the two keeps people safer the most, which can be further strengthened with using sanitizers and washing hands regularly.

Of course, medical professionals agree that masks are not the miracle solution for any viral disease. In fact believing otherwise could provide a false sense of security. “Rather than viewing it as the sole way you’re staving off infection, it should be seen as a tool in a larger group of anti-infection measures,” he says.

Myth – Nostrils don’t need protection from Face masks

Fact – There are many people that can be seen wearing their masks incorrectly. They may have covered their mouth, but their nostrils stay unprotected. Whether it’s ignorance or their belief, nostrils are responsible for inhaling and exhaling air as well. It isn’t only the mouth that needs protection. In fact, if a person sneezes, the viral particles can exit through that opening and spread to surfaces or people. Which is why, it is always best to purchase a mask that fits on the face properly. A mask should not only be made of good materials but should also provide proper coverage for mouths and nostrils.

Myth – Face Masks only help if the wearer has symptoms

Fact – According to Cara Pensabene, MD, masks are still necessary protection, regardless of whether there are symptoms of the virus or not. “Up to 60 percent of people who test positive for coronavirus have no symptoms,” she explains. “And yes, it’s possible for someone who has COVID-19 but no symptoms to spread the virus.” Masks can keep others from being infected from the wearer, yes, but it should also be worn by all to further minimise the risk of spread. A person with symptoms should also observe self-quarantine and practice social distancing to keep others safe.