Does wearing a mask, especially a homemade mask like so many of us are wearing now, cause more harm than good?
One of the posts circulating on Facebook right now trumpets the dangers of anoxia (absence of oxygen) or asphyxiation (being deprived of oxygen) from rebreathing the carbon dioxide that we exhale into the mask as we breathe. The claim is that as the concentration increases, people start to experience carbon dioxide intoxication which can lead to poisoning. Symptoms may include gasping and labored breathing, muscle twitching, elevated blood pressure, headache, rapid pulse, loss of judgment, and even unconsciousness.
The reality is that our homemade masks are not air-tight enough for this to be a significant concern. If you’re wearing the mask properly, there just isn’t enough room inside to save much of your exhaled breath. The material of the mask is so thin that fresh air easily mixes with the air in your mask, especially as you inhale. So it’s highly unlikely this would be a problem, even with long-term wearing.
I’m not a doctor or a scientist, so I’d recommend you do your own research on this. I’m pretty sure you’ll find the same thing I did. But I’m keeping an eye out for any updates on this issue; most of the information online on this issue is fairly old, nearly all pre-COVID-19.
One well-known factor is related to how to wear your mask. More and more commonly I’m seeing people have the mask slid down slightly so it doesn’t cover their nose. That’s a mistake. The mask is supposed to be covering both your nose and your mouth, so that it catches any droplets of moisture that escape your body as you breathe and that might be carrying bad things like COVID-19. If it’s not covering your nose as well as your mouth, you’ve defeated its purpose.
One meme I saw online today said, “FYI…Wearing a mask with your nose sticking out is like wearing a condom with the tip cut off.” I think you understand.
Preventing Your Glasses from Fogging Up
One of the primary reasons some people fail to wear the mask properly is because they’re also wearing glasses and their glasses fog up from their hot breath — when the warm air from your breath hits the much colder lenses of your glasses, condensation forms at least temporarily.
Here are a few tips that might help prevent foggy glasses:
- Make sure your mask fits properly. This is easier with a medical mask that has a metal rod built into it to mold around your nose better. With homemade masks, you can try tightening it at the top, maybe lowering it slightly on your nose (but don’t uncover your nose!). You might also be able to add a pipe cleaner along the top of a homemade mask to shape it over your nose like the metal strip in a medical mask.
- Use tape across the top of the mask to seal it against your face. Almost any kind of tape except duct tape can work — adhesive, medical, athletic — but you might want to test it on another part of your body to make sure it doesn’t irritate your skin.
- Thinner material makes it easier for your breath to escape your mask without so much of it going out the top. You may be able to remove a layer of fabric, although if the mask is too thin it loses its functionality.
- Wash your glasses in soapy water and let them air dry. Other substances that might help include shaving cream, baby shampoo, and toothpaste, but all of these have a limited time of effectiveness.
- Use a commercial anti-fog wipe or spray on your glasses. It’s a more expensive fix but can be very effective.
Don’t forget why you’re wearing a mask to begin with — for the protection of others around you. Vice President Pence caused an uproar a couple of days ago when he visited patients at the Mayo Clinic and did not wear a mask. He was the only one in his entourage who did not have a mask on. He tried to explain it away but he had no good excuse and only made matters worse. On the evening news tonight he was wearing a mask from his tour today of a GM plant. It was good to see that at least he is capable of learning from his mistakes.