- Wearing a face mask helps prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
- But some people say they can’t or won’t use one for a variety of medically invalid reasons, including that they can’t breathe or that oxygen levels drop behind a cloth shield.
- A doctor debunked these myths by evaluating his heart rate and oxygen levels while wearing different masks for five minutes each.
- Health professionals have also said that claims that certain medical conditions should exempt you from wearing masks are not good.
- Visit the Business Insider home page for more stories.
Face masks are recommended, if not required, in public settings across the US to protect users from contracting or spreading the new coronavirus.
That’s because they work. A recent study in the UK, for example, showed that mandates to wear masks might be enough to contain an outbreak without a closure.
Case reports have also illustrated its effectiveness, with two infected (and masked) stylists able to do their job on 140 masked clients without spreading the disease.
But some Americans are backing down, saying they can’t breathe while wearing a mask or point out that the science of litters claims that cloth strips limit users’ oxygen consumption.
A doctor set out to prove them wrong. In an experiment he documented on Facebook, Megan Hall wore four different masks, each for five minutes, while testing her oxygen saturation and heart rate.
He found no significant change in any of the measures when he compared not wearing a mask to using various types of masks.
“Although it may be inconvenient for some, you can still breathe,” he wrote. “As a doctor, I urge and ask you to wear a mask to protect yourself and those who cannot safely wear a mask (many of my patients are under the age of 2).”
Other ‘anti-maskers’ have claimed that they cannot wear masks due to medical conditions, but doctors do not buy it.
Others have said they are “exempt” from mandates requiring the use of masks in public because they have a medical condition that makes the practice risky, according to Dr. Alan Hawxby, a transplant surgeon at the University of Columbia Medical Center. Oklahoma, who posted about the phenomenon on Twitter.
They say they are not required to disclose what that condition is because of privacy laws like HIPAA, which restricts the disclosure of medical information.
—Dr_H (@AlanHawxbyMD) May 6, 2020
Some falsely say that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects them from disclosing their “medical condition.”
—Steven Spohn (@stevenspohn) June 24, 2020
While it’s true that wearing a mask can be uncomfortable, doctors say medical conditions don’t excuse people from wearing masks – they emphasize the importance of wearing one correctly.
For people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the arthritis organization CreakyJoints recommends staying home as much as possible and choosing times when it is least hot, humid, and polluted to go out. It also says choosing a mask that is comfortable, such as a cloth mask made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabric, and practice wearing it.
Correct mask fit is also critical to healthcare workers, both for safety and comfort, Christopher Friese, a professor of nursing at the University of Michigan who was on a panel at the National Academy of Health, told Business Insider. Medicine on respiratory protection.
He said that medical professionals and first responders should undergo a “fit test” to make sure they have a proper mask seal on their faces and that screening tests are carried out for conditions such as asthma, allergies and claustrophobia that could cause the use of certain types is problematic.
“In this pandemic, I am afraid that many settings are giving up fit testing and the initial detection of contraindications, which puts health workers and first responders at risk,” he said.