Can wearing a face mask make you sick?

Published in Wellness Tag: Lucio Minces, MD  

Author: Lucio Minces, MD

There has been misinformation about how wearing a face mask can cause you to rebreathe in carbon dioxide and make you sick.

If you remember basic chemistry and physics, an oxygen molecule or carbon dioxide molecule, are atoms. Properly fitted masks offer adequate airflow while still covering your nose and mouth. These small molecules can freely move through a mask.

Depending on the tightness of the mask, you of course might feel a bit short of breath, depending on your fitness, as if you were wearing a scarf. While wearing a mask might be a new experience for many people, health care workers routinely wear masks for prolonged periods of time (such as performing surgery), and no negative effects have ever been reported. There are no medical facts that support that wearing a mask can make you sick.

Cloth face masks can be used more than once, but It’s important to wash them to remove any bacteria that may build up on the mask. It should be completely dry before you wear it again.

Face masks should not be worn by children under the age of two, or by individuals who have a health condition that might make breathing difficult.

Research also supports that individuals who are exposed to coronavirus when wearing a mask, can get less sick than those who were exposed without a mask. So if you were to become infected with COVID-19, mask wearing could make a difference in the severity of the illness.

Remember, wearing a mask is an act of kindness. By wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing frequent handwashing, you are doing your part to help slow the spread and to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.