By Sumaiya Malik
“Face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus,” says the Mayo Clinic medical team in an article on mayoclinic.org called COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?
Reading that in print myself helped me confirm an opinion under discussion in chat groups and between friends where people are showing skepticism about the importance of wearing masks citing studies and news articles from untrustworthy sources.
In fact, comments like, “Aren’t you being too careful?” or “We don’t care about masks!” are making it harder for those who do practice care.
Those experiencing social pressure should feel at ease because scientific facts with real data on reputable cites online tells us that the advantages of wearing a face mask are far greater, less risky and of vital importance if you genuinely care about your loved ones, your friends and your city.
In fact, the ones who think they don’t care about wearing face masks and put pressure on others are actually doing a disservice to themselves and those around them.
Such people wonder why face masks weren’t recommended at the start of the pandemic.
According to Mayo Clinic, “At that time, experts didn’t know the extent to which people with COVID-19 could spread the virus before symptoms appeared. Nor was it known that some people have COVID-19 but don’t have any symptoms.
Both groups can unknowingly spread the virus to others.”
The University of Maryland (umms.org) has a list of facts and myths about facemasks:
Myth: Other masks are more effective than cloth masks.
Fact: Different types of masks serve different purposes, but cloth masks are highly effective for the general public. The average person who is not working in a medical environment with COVID-19 patients should wear a cloth mask to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers.
Myth: Masks can cause carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up.
Fact: Some people have suggested that carbon dioxide from exhaling gets trapped under the cloth and can make you sick.
This isn’t true. Properly fitted masks offer adequate airflow while still covering your nose and mouth. This makes the accumulation of carbon dioxide impossible.
However, people with breathing problems, children under age 2, and those who can’t remove the mask without assistance should not wear one.
Myth: If you’ve had coronavirus, you don’t need a mask.
Fact: If you’ve had a coronavirus before or had an antibody test come up positive, you may believe that you don’t need to wear a mask.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no way to know whether having coronavirus once provides immunity from the virus again or how long that your immunity might last.
This means that you could potentially catch the disease again and spread it to others.
Myth: You don’t need to wear a mask outside.
Fact: At this time, being outside is generally considered safer than being inside.
When taking a stroll or participating in other outdoor activities by yourself or with people you live with, a mask isn’t required.
However, when you find it difficult to maintain at least six feet of distance from people you don’t live with – such as passing someone on a sidewalk or eating out at a restaurant – it’s important to have your mask on.
You should always have your mask on hand when you leave your home.
The CDC recommends that you wear a cloth face mask when you’re around people who don’t live with you and in public settings when social distancing is difficult.
Here are a few pointers for putting on and taking off a cloth mask:
• Wash or sanitize your hands before and after putting on and taking off your mask.
• Place your mask over your mouth and nose.
• Tie it behind your head or use ear loops and make sure it’s snug.
• Don’t touch your mask while wearing it.
• If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
• If your mask becomes wet or dirty, switch to a clean one. Put the used mask in a sealable bag until you can wash it.
• Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
• Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
• Regularly wash your mask with soap and water by hand or in the washing machine.
It’s fine to launder it with other clothes.