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Face Masks - What is true and what is false?

Face Masks - What is true and what is false?

There is so much information and misinformation out there about face masks, how can you be sure what’s accurate? We put our expert, Baton Rouge General Physician Dr. Rachel Brady to the test to provide us with the real answers on some of the common myths out there and here is what our expert had to say:

Myth: Cloth masks don't protect you.

Fact: Cloth face masks are effective and prevent particles from escaping your nose and mouth and infecting those around you. Others wear their mask to provide the same level of protection for you. They also serve as a reminder to avoid touching your face. Researchers from around the world have found different kinds of masks can significantly reduce the spread of coronavirus, though new studies have shown that some masks are better than others. Researchers are also now examining the possibility that masks might offer some personal protection from the virus, despite initial thinking that they mostly protect others.

Myth: Cloth masks are not as effective as other masks.

Fact: Studies show that N-95 masks are the most effective masks at reducing the spread of COVID. However, supplies of N-95s are limited and experts suggest that they be reserved for medical personnel who work closely with COVID patients. For everyday use, cloth masks have been proven to be effective, though not as effective as an N-95. A study that included researchers from Duke University found that, in a test of several masks, an N95 mask was most effective in reducing droplet emissions, but a three-layer surgical mask and a mask made with a combination of cotton and polypropylene were the next best alternatives. They also found that some two-layer cotton, pleated-style masks performed better than other types of masks, including a one-layer cotton mask and a knitted mask. Still, all three were superior to a bandanna and the unmasked group.

Myth: Masks can cause carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up and make you sick.

Fact: Unless you are wearing an N-95 mask, you should have zero concerns about rebreathing CO2 while wearing your mask. And for 99% of the public, even an N95 mask should cause no issues. However, people with sleep apnea or lung disease may be more sensitive to CO2 levels and should exercise more caution. If possible, they should switch to a cloth or surgical mask.

Myth: You only need to wear a mask if you feel sick.

Fact: False. Many people who have coronavirus can be asymptomatic, spreading the disease to others without even knowing it. This can mean potentially exposing those with underlying conditions who are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. By wearing a mask, you protect others around you and when they wear theirs, they are protecting you. A recent study from Beijing found that mask-wearing was 79 percent effective in preventing infected, pre-symptomatic people from spreading the virus to family members.

Myth: You don't need to wear a mask outside.

Fact: We know it’s safer to be outside, but that doesn’t mean that your risk of catching the virus outdoors is zero. If you are unable to social distance outside, it’s best to wear your mask around people you don’t live with or when you are passing someone on the sidewalk. Just in case, you should always bring a mask with you anytime you leave the house.If you are participating in outdoor activities by yourself or with people you live with, a mask isn't required.

Myth: A loose-fitting mask works just fine.

This is false. You want a mask that will fit snugly against the sides of your face and completely covers your mouth and nose to prevent respiratory droplets from getting in and out. It is important to make sure you can still breathe comfortably though with the mask on.

Myth: Your face mask doesn't need to be washed.

Masks collect germs, so the CDC advises that you wash cloth masks after each use. You can wash your mask with detergent and water in the washing machine. It's fine to launder it with other clothes and dry it in the dryer.