As we are slowly starting to reopen the world amid the coronavirus pandemic; it as been noted that wearing a face mask has quickly been thought of as the socially responsible thing to do in order to "do your part" in halting the spread of the virus. While wearing a face mask would effectively prevent your moist water droplets from speaking (wink wink Justin Trudeau) from being transmitted to some degree - it doesn't come without risk or potential side effects. The objective of this article is to give you some information about the efficacy and risks to wearing a face mask so that you can make a personal and informed decision.
After all, the usage of a mask is something that would be considered a somewhat positive intervention to prevent spread. However it is also a symbol of the public's collective fear and anxiety about the virus. In terms of ability to enforce a positive change; the strongest case study for wearing a mask is if you are sick - have a cough, etc. and you need to go out... so you wear a mask to limit your spread.
There are a few health risks to wearing a mask that require consideration at a personal level and these include:
Individuals who suffer from COPD or other respiratory disease that are similar will find face masks intolerable because it increases breathlessness. Additionally; a small fraction of exhaled air will re-enter the system and if this person also have COVID-19 it can cause a scenario where the health will dramatically worsen. This is due to the fact that the individual would in face be breathing in contaminated air and increase the viral load and exposure
The negative effect of face masks on your innate immunity. The main purpose of the innate immune response is to immediately prevent the spread and movement of foreign pathogens throughout the body.The innate immunity’s efficacy is highly dependent on the viral load. If face masks determine a humid habitat where the SARS-CoV-2 can remain active due to the water vapour continuously provided by breathing and captured by the mask fabric, they determine an increase in viral load and therefore they can cause a defeat of the innate immunity and an increase in infections.
In addition of the health risks to wearing a mask, there are some behavioral risks to wearing a mask. Especially when we believe the masks to be able to DO more than what they truly do. Some of the more behavioral risks include:
False sense of security. People are likely to adhere less to other more effective infection control measures such as: washing your hands and socially distancing
Inappropriate use of face mask. Inappropriate use can actually INCREASE your risk of infection than not wearing a mask at all. If individuals do not change single use masks constantly and/or wash and disinfect their cloth masks on a regular basis - this increases risk of infection and disease.
Communication. The wearing of face masks can cause the muffling and distortion of the voice; meaning that people having a conversation may unconsciously move closer to each other as a result.
Exhaled air can come into your eyes. This can generate an uncomfortable feeling and may cause you to touch your eyes, meaning that you are then effectively infecting yourself.
If you are choosing to wear a face mask; then I urge you to also consider the risks, side effects as well as the efficacy. As recently as 2010, the US National Academy of Sciences declared that, in the community setting, “face masks are not designed or certified to protect the wearer from exposure to respiratory hazards.” The most compelling use case scenario is to wearing the mask to protect others if YOU ARE IN FACT SICK - in which case; I would argue that you should really just stay home.
So please do not try and push "wearing a mask" blindly; and please try not to shame others who do not choose to wear a mask without considering the potential risks, side effects and efficacy. After which, I encourage you to make a personal and informed decision for yourself. I personally do not wear a mask (unless determined by policy in certain places) mainly because I have a medical history of asthma and the discomfort and the risk to my health is not worth it.