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An ICU nurse debunks Covid-19 mask myths

With Covid-19 cases on the rise in several states, it's normal to want to be a little more cautious and follow all the guidelines you can. But what *are* the guidelines? It can be overwhelming when you hear one thing from health experts and another from people on social media.

Don't sweat it, though! We're debunking some of the most popular myths about masks with Patrice, an ICU nurse who's here to make sure you've got *all* the info you need to stay safe. 

Myth #1: I don't need to wear a mask if I'm not sick.
This couldn't be further from the truth! "The tricky thing about Covid-19 is that you can be infected with the virus and never even show symptoms," Patrice says. Covid-19 is spread by respiratory droplets in the air and masks make it harder for these droplets to escape. "This is why we need everyone to wear a mask, regardless of whether you're showing symptoms or not." 

Myth #2: Wearing a mask can give me carbon dioxide poisoning.
This is a big one we've seen going around lately, but Patrice gives some clarity on this misunderstood myth. "If masks caused CO2 poisoning, us doctors and nurses would be in trouble!" she says. "But really, there's almost no risk of CO2 poisoning from wearing a mask, especially when you're only wearing it for essential errands or a quick trip to the store. Carbon dioxide particles are so small that they can easily escape any breathable face mask, whether it's a reuasble cloth one or an heavy-duty N95."

Myth #3: Masks can reduce your body's oxygen levels.
"Same idea, but that's a myth, too. Healthcare professionals have been wearing masks for prolonged periods of time for ages, and there's no evidence that suggests that masks cause any significant drop in oxygen levels. Masks don't fit close enough to our faces to block our oxygen intake significantly—not even N95 masks! A reusable cloth mask will allow you plenty of ventilation and access to oxygen."

When we asked Patrice if she had any other advice to give us to stay safe, she said that the most important thing to remember about masks is that they are *not* a substitution for social distancing.

"Wearing a mask isn't a green light to hang out with large groups of people. The masks keep us from spreading the virus to others when we *have* to go out. They do offer a bit of protection to the wearer by blocking larger respiratory droplets and keeping people from touching their faces, but ultimately, we wear masks to protect the community and keep the virus from spreading to those who are more vulnerable. Stay home when you can, and when you can't, wear a mask. It's easy to do, and it could save a life. And remember: it goes OVER your nose!" 

Were you surprised by any of these mask myths? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag!


by Paris Johnson | 7/14/2020