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Sharp Health News

Busting face mask myths

Aug. 5, 2020

Woman in coffee shop wearing face mask
There is a lot of information — and misinformation — being shared about the role face coverings play in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s easy to wonder which bits of information are face mask facts and what is pure mask malarkey.

But first, the most important fact: We should all wear a face covering when around others who are not part of our household. Why? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experts have reviewed the latest science and confirmed that cloth face coverings can reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially when being regularly worn by the majority of people within a community.

While it’s clear that everyone should wear a face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19, a few pesky mask myths keep popping up. We’re here to bust them, once and for all.

Top 5 mask myths busted

Myth #1: You can use anything as a face covering, as long as it’s in front of your face.
Well, not really. According to the California Department of Public Health, suitable face coverings for the general public can be cloth face coverings, disposable medical masks or a plastic face shield with a drape attached along the bottom edge. A recent study found that masks made of two-layered quilting cotton blocked the most respiratory droplets from spreading when compared to other types of masks worn by the general public, including a bandana, loosely folded cotton handkerchief and cone-shaped disposable mask.

Myth #2: As long as I’m covering my mouth, it’s OK if my nose is exposed so I can breathe better.
Not true. The CDC offers the following do’s and don’ts to wearing your face covering correctly:

Do:
  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering.
  • Put it over your nose and mouth, and secure it under your chin.
  • Fit it snugly against the sides of your face.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily.
  • Wash your face covering after each use or, at the very least, daily.
Don’t:
  • Don’t use or share an unwashed face covering.
  • Don’t put your face covering under your chin, around your neck or up on your forehead.
  • Don’t touch your face covering, but if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
Myth #3: Wearing a mask is dangerous because it doesn’t allow you to get enough oxygen and causes you to breathe in too much carbon dioxide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) disagrees, saying that the prolonged use of masks can be uncomfortable, but does not lead to carbon dioxide intoxication or oxygen deficiency. Consider the fact that doctors, nurses and other health care professionals safely wear masks every day and often for several hours at a time, sometimes for eight to 10 hours.

Myth #4: If I’m wearing a mask, I don’t need to also practice social distancing.
Actually, wearing a face covering is just one of the many precautions we can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The County of San Diego advises that along with wearing a face covering, you and your loved ones should be doing the following:
  • Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are at high risk for health complications if exposed.
  • If you do go out, practice social distancing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces often.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home and isolate yourself from others if you are sick.
Myth #5: I don’t need to wear a mask when I’m outside.
Sometimes you do. State and local health orders require that people over 2 years of age wear a face covering when outside their home and unable to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others, such as when you are:
  • Waiting in line to go inside a store
  • Shopping in a store
  • Picking up food at a restaurant
  • In common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators and parking facilities
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation
  • Riding in a taxi or other ride service vehicle
  • Seeking health care
  • Going into facilities allowed to stay open
  • Working at an essential job that interacts with the public
  • Outdoors and unable to maintain 6 feet from people not from the same household
There is no need for face coverings when you are in the car, swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running by yourself or with your own household members. However, you should have a face covering readily available in case you come within 6 feet of others not from your household, such as on a narrow walking trail or when going through a restaurant’s drive-thru.

All patients and visitors to Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, Sharp Community Medical Group and SharpCare Medical Group offices are encouraged to wear their own cloth face covering upon arrival. Patients with flu-like illness will be given a standard mask. Learn more about COVID-19 precautions at Sharp HealthCare.

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