DETROIT – Almost everyone in Michigan has worn a mask during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but is there any truth to recent social media posts claiming people are getting sick due to wearing masks for an extended period of time?
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From the very beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Frank McGeorge has said that masks aren’t perfect. They don’t completely filter every breath you take and they shouldn’t give you a sense of invincibility.
Masks need to be worn properly for maximum effectiveness, and they definitely take some getting used to.
Social media claims
But a post making the rounds on social media is claiming it’s dangerous to wear a mask. Dr. McGeorge put that claim to the test with the Trust Index.
Different recent Facebook posts have claimed that masks can cause carbon monoxide poisoning or lung infections. One claims a 19-year-old healthy grocery store worker was sick for two weeks after a chest x-ray “lit up” and she underwent a CT scan, MRI and ultrasound, as well as a negative COVID-19 test.
The worker was told it was pleurisy, caused by wearing a mask for eight hours a day for five or six days a week and breathing in her own bacteria and carbon dioxide, according to the post.
Debunking false claims
First of all, masks have pores in them, which allows people to breathe. Gasses such as oxygen and carbon dioxide freely pass in and out of the masks, making any significant buildup of exhaled carbon dioxide impossible, Dr. McGeorge said.
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As far as breathing your own bacteria, fortunately there are mechanisms that clear out any bacteria that might make it into our respiratory tract, and breathing with a mask doesn’t cause bacterial lung infections or pleurisy.
Perhaps the simplest way to think of the question is to recall that many health care providers, particularly operating room staff members, wear masks continuously for many hours, day after day, and don’t have harmful effects.
Trust Index: Not true
Dr. McGeorge is giving these claims a “not true” on the Trust Index.
There are no medial facts that support any of the posts. It does take a little while to get used to wearing a mask, but it’s not harmful.
There are two potential legitimate downsides to wearing a mask.
The first is fiddling with it, touching it and touching your face repeatedly, which can contaminate your face.
Secondly, long-term use, especially with tight-fitting N-95 masks, can cause skin irritation or make acne worse, so be sure to wash your face regularly.