We all love a good conspiracy theory. Did man really walk on the moon 50 years ago, who really shot John F Kennedy, Was George W Bush responsible for pulling down the twin towers? The list goes on and on. Modern history presents us with challenges that are hard for us to comprehend so we dismiss the obvious, the truth and often look toward the grey areas for an answer sometimes. In this article we examine the modern myths and conspiracies surrounding the wearing of face masks in the battle against Coronavirus.
Myth 1: Masks can be made from any material
Masks can be made from any material…Really? The simple answer to this common myth is of course a mask can be made of any material, but the real question is, what protection does it offer? If it offers little or no protection, then clearly there is little point in wearing it. Single ply, reusable, plastic, porous, cloth, 3 ply, type 1, type ll, disposable type llR, scarf, bandana, the list is endless, but there really is only one face mask that you can pop on that will provide in-bound and out-bound protection. A 3-ply disposable Type llR. This is the mask recommended by the WHO for ultimate protection. Why? Because it has three protective layers:
- An outer layer of splash resistant non-woven material which acts as a barrier
- A middle layer which acts as a filter with bacterial filtration efficiency of above 98%
- An inner layer of soft fibre that absorbs moisture
The myth that any barrier will work is exactly that, a myth. Reusable masks are harbingers of bacteria and present the ideal environment for viruses to thrive. With a 3-ply Type llR disposable mask you have the protection against viruses and bacteria and the surety that when you dispose of the mask you dispose of any threat.
Myth 2: Wearing a face mask makes you breathe back in too much carbon dioxide
It is a myth that wearing a face mask makes you breathe back in too much carbon dioxide. The only way this would happen is if the mask were made of non-breathable materials, like plastic. Oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are so small they can easily pass through the breathable materials in masks. Droplets in comparison are much larger and the woven materials, filter layer and non-woven materials in a Type llR mask simply will not let larger virus molecules pass through either way. Because of the breathability construction of a disposable Type llR mask there is no chance of carbon monoxide build up, nor oxygen deprivation. During the height of the lock down as wearing facemasks became mandatory in situations where social distancing couldn’t be observed, fake social media posts supported by misleading diagrams stating that face masks were dangerous and restricted breathing populated sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These were spread by people who were anti-mask and had their own agenda. These were soon dismissed by experts and the media in general, but not before populating the myth further.
Medical grade masks are worn by surgeons for hours on end
If wearing a face mask makes you breathe in too much carbon dioxide then the operating theatres of Britain and all over the world would be filled with swooning doctors, nurses and anaesthetists, plunging the world into crisis, as they have to wear them for hours on end during long surgical procedures. 3-ply Type llR disposable face masks have been worn by surgeons not only for hours on end but on a daily basis for years and not only do they offer them ultimate protection there has not been a slew of news stories highlighting any ill-effects in hospitals and surgeries.
The World Health Organisation, the British Government and the NHS all recognise medical grade masks as the ultimate protection in environments where there is direct and indirect risk. These masks protect our frontline and key workers and afford the same protection to anyone wearing one.
Myth 3: Only people who are sick need to wear face masks
Another myth populated by people who don’t want to wear a mask is that only people who are sick need to wear a face mask. Psychologists would call this deflection. Shifting the conversation away from their own dislike of face masks to direct the conversation to another group. The fact is that face masks, especially 3-ply disposable Type llR face masks, are for everyone, those who are well and those who do have underlying health issues. The protection offered is not discriminatory. However, some people will be exempt from wearing a face mask because of pre-existing medical conditions such as acute asthma, chronic pulmonary disorder and other lung conditions. These people though, generally will not expose themselves to additional risk in situations where social distancing cannot be controlled and are therefore less liable to come into contact with people carrying the virus in social situations. Face masks are the barrier between people with and without the virus and provide the defence required to keep Coronavirus at a distance.
The oddity with Covid-19 has been its many variables in the way it affects people. Some people have tested positive and shown no symptoms, so for these people it is vital that they wear a mask. Super spreaders have also been known to be highly contagious and yet not emitted sign of the virus. The reasons not to wear a facemask are far fewer that the compelling reasons to pop on a mask.
Myth 4: You do not have to social distance if you wear a mask
Social distancing rules have not changed since lock down was introduced. The safest distance in an enclosed environment is still two metres and then wearing a mask is mandatory. Though there has been confusion over when to wear a mask in social situations and this has not been helped by the lifting of certain social situations. While the rule of six is being applied in environments such as pubs and other social settings, such as restaurants and café’s where masks could not be worn for obvious reasons, such as eating and drinking, these are the only times where the social distancing rules regarding wearing a mask do not apply. However, when ordering at the bar or moving about the premises, masks are once again mandatory. Public transport is another example where there is no lifting of face mask wearing while on buses, trains, coaches, planes, tube and ferries. Masks provide necessary protection, but social distancing is still the preferred method to keep the virus at a distance. Public transport and social environments are still placing distancing measures and one way systems to ensure people keep at a distance and this is backed by the Government’s insistence that masks must be worn when moving or in situations where the rule of six cannot be applied or if you are among strangers. Government advice remains consistent that even with social distancing masks must be worn. Indoor situations really do call for a greater level of protection because of the unknown factors such as the strangers who are closer than two meters.
Even Type IIR masks are not completely 100% covid proof
No masks are 100% covid proof and that’s for many reasons, including the way you wear and store a mask, how often you wear a mask, the mask’s structure, the quality of the mask and if it has one, its filter system. So, our advice is to choose the best type of mask at the start and ensure you are as safe as possible. A disposable mask such as a 3 ply Type llR face mask has many advantages over reusable masks, the primary advantages being the non-woven outer layer that acts as a barrier, the middle layer filter and the absorbency of the inner layer, making wearing the mask comfortable and less penetrable than reusable masks. Bad practices wearing any mask will increase your vulnerability regardless of the mask you wear. Always avoid touching you face, nose, eyes and mouth when in public areas. Always sanitise hands where possible on entering an enclosed environment, during and if possible when leaving. Even better, wash hands frequently with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching surfaces unless you have sanitised or disinfected the surface first. Good practices, safe measures and the best face masks will contribute to making you as safe as possible in most circumstances. When wearing a 3-ply Type llR disposable face mask, some simple practices will ensure you remain safe. Don’t keep reusing the mask, it may be tempting but there isn’t a living person that can see coronavirus with the naked eye, so if you can’t see it, don’t run the risk and reuse it. Don’t store the mask once worn with new unused masks, if contaminated it will cross-contaminate sterile masks. Choose a mask with elasticated loops for the ears and makes sure it is pleated, so you can easily adjust under your chin. Never pull the mask under your chin, keep it in place and put on and take off without making too much contact with your neck or throat. Even Type IIR masks are not completely 100% covid proof, but good practices make them the safest possible mask to wear.
Myth 5: Wearing a face mask weakens your immune system
There have been some misleading articles stating that wearing a face mask weakens your immune system. These articles have been based on totally inaccurate information and usually spread by conspiracy theorists, anti-mask wearers and a small but vocal band of social media trolls who are Coronavirus deniers. Stopping to think this myth through instantly debunks this theory as nonsensical. For it to be anywhere near true you would have to wear the mask 100% of the time and that includes stopping you from eating and drinking, which, let’s face it would severely affect your immune system by totally shutting it down and killing you through starvation and dehydration. How, wearing a mask for even a few hours a day would suppress your immune system is not only unbelievable but actually quite amusing. The premise behind the ‘theory’ is that the mask is so effective it stops all microbes from ever entering your body, even the good ones and that includes all those good microbes we absorb through eating and drinking. How wearing a face mask for a few hours at the most a day achieves this is beyond me or medical science. Though, it could be a back-handed compliment highlighting the effectiveness of especially a medical grade 3-ply Type llR disposable face mask against viruses such as Coronavirus. The fact is this type of mask does indeed inhibit the potency of the virus if they are worn correctly. Though lowering the immune system is a mighty tall call. The immune system is not impacted that easily. Vampires may burst into flames if exposed to sunlight or crucifixes, but immunity is not compromised by wearing a medical grade face mask for a short period of time every day.
Myth 6: You don’t need to wear a mask if you’ve had coronavirus before
You don’t need to wear a mask if you have had coronavirus before…this myth actually stems from a number of sources and misunderstandings about the virus. Like with most viruses it is believed that once contracted the person will gain some form of immunity when they eventually recover. However, like with most viruses, there are mutations of the virus. So, immunity is not guaranteed. There have already been cases reported of people contacting Coronavirus twice. The most recent being a 25-year-old man from Nevada, who had no underlying health conditions catching the virus for a second time. The second dose of the virus was far more debilitation than the first-time round. To date there have been over five re-infections and while this number is very small in the scheme of the virulence of the virus, it reinforces the need for everyone, regardless of whether they have had the virus or not to continue with measures to protect themselves. One of the key factors with the disease is the length of immunity as well as the potential for reinfection through different strains or variants. Clearly wearing a mask and sticking to good hand washing routines and sanitising when possible will continue to provide protection, especially when couples with good social distancing measures. Because of the way the virus has been reported many younger people have also been led to believe they have an inbuilt immunity. As the case of the fit and healthy young man from Nevada who contracted the virus twice shows, age is not the protector that may have been reported. Many reports have been anecdotal and until we have more consistent monitoring and result from track and trace, so we can understands how the virus is spreading and the vulnerabilities of everyone, it is difficult to state with certainty if any members of our society are indeed less vulnerable, let alone immune.
Wearing masks to protect from Covid is not only for your benefit
Some reusable masks have a small interchangeable filter which offer no protection to anyone but the user wearing the mask and even than the protection is debateable. What this type of reusable mask does is work only one-way, so if the person wearing it has, or has had Covid-19, then they will be breathing out droplets containing the virus into the environment around them. This highlights the importance of wearing the correct mask. Wearing masks to protect from Covid is not only for your benefit but also for the benefit of people within your vicinity. The right mask protects not just you but those around you, so insure you are not inadvertently putting others at risk by choosing a mask that offers no outward protection. Medical grade masks provide inbound and out bound protection, ensuring a safer environment for all. It’s the disposability of a medical grade face mask that helps enhance the safety. Never pop on any mask for longer than required and always ensure, especially with a disposable mask, that you carry out good practices by disposing of them safely and regularly. Remember to always cut the ear loops with scissors to make them safer for animals, should they somehow make their way from your waste disposal and end up in harm’s way. The simple and most practical thing to do is wear a mask when social distancing is not possible and wear one when in all public situations, such as travelling in confined spaces, moving through pubs restaurants and cafés, but not just any mask. Makes sure you are safe and make sure those around you are safe and the surest way to do that is with a medical grade 3-ply Type llR disposable face mask.
Myth 7: You do not need to stay at home as long as you wear a mask
Lock down restrictions are changing daily and while for a time they were lifted nationwide, as we move towards winter, we have seen new measures come into place at a regional level in cities up and down the country. A correctly fitted, correctly worn mask will enable greater freedoms as long as other safety measures are applied such as regular hand washing and hand sanitizing then a facemask will mean you can do certain leisure activities including shopping and controlled socialising while retaining current guidelines for your area. A face mask though does not give carte blanche access all areas freedoms, however they do allow as normal a life as possible outside the home. The safest environment if you are free from the virus will be your home, but we all need to leave home for many reasons, to eat, to shop, to work and to socialise. We are social creatures and one of the many things this virus has robbed us off is the ability to meet friends, and for a while close family too. Facemasks have lifted those curfews to an extent, but always with caveats. The one thing for sure at present is what rules and guidelines exists this week could all change as the R number (The rate of infection) rises or falls. Until an anti-virus is available, we will live at the mercy of how well we adhere to current information from the Government and recognised health bodies. We do know that all current information recognises the importance of wearing a face mask. We also know that the face mask the World Health Organisation recommends is a medical grade Type llR disposable face mask. The very same face mask the UK Government insists our key workers and front-line workers’ wear. The myth though that you do not need to stay at home as long as you wear a mask is both myth and truth. If you pop on a face mask for that journey to town or to work the you are acting safely as long as the mask is good and from a sterile environment and you continue to wash and sanitise.
So there we have it, the seven common myths surrounding disposable masks. As humans we react to new and unknown situations in many different ways and we have an inbuilt instinct for survival. Myths, urban legends and conspiracy theories all make up part of that human psyche and how we react to change. There is no reason why our reactions to wearing face masks should be no different. Why there is a group of people who spread disinformation, or who are anti face masks. These will be the same people who will undoubtedly be anti-virus when it arrives and for them these are perfectly sound reasons. The best defence is knowledge, investigate, research and make a choice based on fact. In this article we have dispelled some of the biggest misnomers about face masks and hopefully steered you to making a decision based on facts. In each of these myths we have tried to present answers based on knowledge from leading health bodies, governments and medical opinion grounded by current and up to date knowledge. Many of the facts presented here have not changed and the leading one is the safest face mask to wear. By now you should know that it is a medical grade 3-ply, Type llR disposable face mask.