There are numerous myths and falsehoods surrounding the use of face coverings, many of which are widespread on the internet and social media. However, they are all false. Read on for more.
The most common myth about face coverings is that using face coverings can lead to a dangerous build up of carbon dioxide, which can lead to death. This is completely false. Build-up of carbon dioxide is only possible if the covering forms an airtight seal with the face, which no covering or mask is designed to do to avoid this very issue. Coverings and masks can allow fresh air in and carbon dioxide out through their material without risking a build-up of carbon dioxide. Remember, surgeons can wear face masks all day without suffering any ill effects from CO2 build up, and their masks are, as a general rule, more airtight than the standard face coverings the Government is advising the public to wear.1,2
A second common myth about face coverings is that they deprive the wearer of oxygen. This is, for the same reason as before, completely false. Coverings allow air molecules through in both directions, just not water droplets that Covid-19 can survive in. This means oxygen can get in just as CO2 can get out, and oxygen deprivation is therefore impossible.3
A third common myth about face coverings is that masks aren’t needed because of social distancing. This is also false. This is because while both methods are intended to prevent people catching or transmitting Covid-19, neither is fool proof. As such, it is unsafe to rely on just one method to protect us, as each method can lead to the transmission of Covid-19 if not combined with other preventative measures. This is the same reason why washing hands after contact with other people is still recommended, as no method can prevent transmission of Covid-19 by itself. Face coverings, along with social distancing and other measures, are still necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Face masks are not a substitute for maintaining social distancing and good hand hygiene.4,5
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS WHEN WEARING A MASK
There are some safety precautions that must be taken when wearing a mask or covering, in order to prevent further risk of infection.
To reduce the risk of infection, it is advised that any face covering or mask, whether home-made or bought, should cover both the nose and mouth completely, with as near to an air-tight seal as possible. The covering or mask should not in any way restrict breathing. It should contain at least 2 layers of fabric to prevent droplet transmission, and be comfortable but not loose. If it is not disposable (which includes almost all homemade fabric coverings) it should be washed with other garments in a normal way after every use, then dried without damaging the material. This may not be possible for many masks, and washing instructions should always be checked.6
When putting a mask on or removing it, you should wash your hands before and after. The covering or mask should only be touched by the straps as this reduces the risk of infection from the surface, and ideally stored somewhere that it will not be touched accidentally (if it is not washed immediately after use). Face coverings and masks should not be shared between people to avoid the risk of cross-contamination. If you intend to reuse the covering and are unable to wash it, it should be left for a minimum of 24 hours after use to allow any trace of the virus on the surface to die. If you must reuse the mask or covering within that 24 hour period, extra care should be taken when putting the mask on and removing it. All these recommendations come from the Government guidance.7,8
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