"When I first saw my first rhinoplasty procedure, I was so intrigued by the complexity… all of the emotional and psychological things that went along with it. And I, at that point, realized that facial plastic surgery is the perfect harmony of science and art, and I...
To Mask or Not To Mask
Could the use of masks jeopardize your health and put you at further risk of contracting COVID-19? What does the data show regarding mask effectiveness? The answer boils down to whether face masks really work, and if not, then why mandate it?
The controversy of face masks has gone on long enough. Will you be brave and face the facts or continue to submit to a proposed false narrative?
About the Face Mask Mandate
As of November 2020, numerous governors are urging constituents to wear masks each time they go outdoors, to stores, and within their own homes when hosting guests. They are also attempting to order new quarantine mandates, business shutdowns, and strict public activities monitoring. Essentially, this proposed mask mandate would require that all constituents wear a mask at all times. However, these leaders are quoting statistics and facts that do not equate to a need for the level of response that they are enforcing. Also, there is no logical reason why people are being forced to live in fear of something that is not likely to cause serious harm. Currently, there is a 3% COVID-19 mortality rate in the United States. That means 97% of those infected recover with minimal complications. With numbers such as these, why are governors mandating masks and quarantines? Also, how are they going to enforce such mandates on a national level? Many object to the mask mandate and have given clear evidence as to why masks pose a risk to a person’s health.
Should You Wear a Face Mask
Health officials around the world have been urging the public to stop buying facemasks. The purchase of masks is depleting the supply for medical professionals who actually need them. Surgeon General Adams stated in a February tweet that the best way to protect yourself from the virus is to wash your hands regularly and to stay home if you are feeling ill. Regarding masks, Adams said, “They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching #CORONAVIRUS, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”. Adams also said, “You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider.” Coming straight from the Surgeon General’s mouth, again, masks are not effective in preventing the general public from catching COVID-19. The only reason healthcare professionals are saying to wear masks now, despite other advice, is to prevent the spreading of the virus through droplets. However, there are limits to how this protection works.
The effectiveness of wearing masks solely revolves around the idea that the virus spreads from droplets and that masks do a good enough job of preventing the spread of droplets. A Danish study investigating the effectiveness of masks reported that “1.8% of the people wearing masks had been infected, while 2.1% of the people in the control group had tested positive.” The study also concluded that mask use had minimal impact on protection. Masks are only equipped to stop large respiratory droplets from entering the mouth and nose. Early in the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask, and they keep touching their face.”
Dr. Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director of The Health Emergency Program at the World Health Organization, backed up Fauci’s statement saying, “Not having a mask does not necessarily put you at an increased risk of contracting this disease.” Prominent leaders in the medical field, as quoted above, have all said at one point that wearing masks does little to prevent contracting the virus, and the lack of wearing masks does not increase your risk of contraction either. However, Fauci went back on his word and said, “Well, if people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it.” So, which is it; is Dr. Fauci for or against masks, and if many professionals are questioning the effectiveness of masks, why would he support mask mandates? Despite Dr. Fauci’s conflicting beliefs, evidence suggests that wearing a mask does not provide the perfect protection people seek.
The Surgeon General, Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Ryan’s statements, even though being from previous months, still hold tremendous weight today. The science behind COVID-19 and mask related research has not changed since then. The principles that medical professionals held then are still relevant today. Therefore, their statements should not be disregarded as mere “old news.”
The Science Behind “Why Not?”
The chances of catching COVID-19 from quick passing interactions in public spaces is low. To contract COVID-19, you would have to sustain constant face-to-face contact with an individual for a minimum of 15 minutes. Also, the person whom you are conversing with would have to be symptomatic. Wearing a mask changes very little, with few exceptions (i.e., the Danish study), such as wearing one on a plane or other similar situations. A mask mandate seems outrageous when the parameters for infection are so specific. COVID-19 is a unique virus because most of those infected experience no symptoms or little sickness, and a minimal number of people face the risk of serious outcomes.
No in-depth studies have been conducted to demonstrate whether a cloth mask or N95 mask affects the transmission of COVID-19. This means that recommendations, especially governmental, must be based on studies of Influenza transmission. Why are government leaders pushing for a mask mandate when there is not enough evidence to support one? This means that governors are making mandates based on information that pertains to an entirely different illness, with no real empirical evidence to prove the effectiveness of prolonged mask use. However, what there is scientific evidence of are the risks of prolonged mask use.
Prolonged mask use has been correlated with headaches, increased airway resistance, hypoxia, carbon dioxide accumulation, and serious life-threatening health issues. The N95 mask is most commonly associated with headaches because they restrict breathing to a much higher degree than other masks.
A study conducted by Zhu JH, Lee SJ, Wang DY, et al., surveyed 158 healthcare workers who were asked about headaches with their N95 mask use. One-third of those studied reported headaches when using a mask and that the masks worsened their preexisting headaches. Sixty percent of those surveyed required pain medication to treat their headaches. Key evidence suggests that hypoxia and/or hypercapnia were the cause. Hypoxia can also inhibit the main immune cells that are used to fight viral infections. Mask use may potentially increase your chances of catching COVID-19 and increases the risk of having more severe symptoms.
Research has also shown that the longer a mask is worn, the greater the fall in blood oxygen levels. A reduction in blood oxygen levels can increase inflammation, which may promote the growth and spread of cancer. Not to mention, repeated cases of hypoxia can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Apparently, researchers are working on a new N95 mask that is electrostatically charged and can be recharged after a few uses. To recharge the mask, it is placed between two plate electrodes with an application of a strong electric field. This mask is still under development, and medical professionals are debating the practicality of it. Critics say that it is unlikely that healthcare workers will want to dismantle their masks after each use for a recharge. As for health benefits, the electrostatic N95 is supposed to work the same as a regular N95, except it can be recharged; therefore, it presents the same health risks as other N95 masks.
Those most at risk from COVID-19 are also most at risk of serious illness from prolonged mask use because a decrease in blood oxygenation reduces Th1 cell efficiency. Individuals with emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, COPD, and those who have had lung surgery are at risk of worsening their lung function by wearing masks.
When a person has been infected, every breath that they release expels the virus into the air. When wearing a mask, this expulsion is somewhat trapped within the mask and breathed in again. By repeatedly breathing in the virus, they increase the concentration of the virus in their lungs and nasal passages. Those who have had the worst cases of COVID-19 were those who had the worst concentrations of the virus in their system.
Therefore, by wearing a mask while infected, you increase your chances of developing a serious case of COVID-19.
There is a substantial lack of evidence supporting wearing a mask of any kind, and imposing such a mandate puts more people at risk than it helps. The whole idea surrounding the efficacy of mask-wearing hinges on the absolute compliance of the people. Regardless of the evidence against wearing masks, Dr. Fauci wants forced mandates, “There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandate it, and everybody pulls together and says, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it. I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly.” However, have the American people become too comfortable with compliance? With all of this in mind, are you going to support the prolonged use of masks or stand against it?
Aggarwal BB. Nucler factor-kappaB: The enemy within. Cancer Cell 2004;6:203-208.
Axios. (2020). Fauci says if people won’t wear masks, maybe it should be mandated. Retrieved from https://www.axios.com/fauci-arent-wearing-masks-mandate-c67c3388-942f-48d1-90dd-24a7ca4f642a.html
bin-Reza F et al. The use of mask and respirators to prevent transmission of influenza: A systematic review of the scientific evidence. Resp Viruses 2012;6(4):257-67.
Coldewey, D. (2020). N95 masks could soon be rechargeable instead of disposable. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/14/n95-masks-could-soon-be-rechargeable-instead-of-disposable/
Coronavirus Cases:. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Cramer, M., & Sheikh, K. (2020). Surgeon General Urges the Public to Stop Buying Face Masks. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/health/coronavirus-n95-face-masks.html
Ellis, R. (2020). Fauci Says Nationwide Face Mask Rule May Be Needed. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20201024/fauci-says-nationwide-face-mask-rule-may-be-needed
Garcia, C. (2020). Republican Maryland governor says no one has a ‘constitutional right to walk around without a mask’. Retrieved from https://www.theblaze.com/news/larry-hogan-constitutional-mask-mandate
General, U. (2020). Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk! https://t.co/UxZRwxxKL9. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Surgeon_General/status/1233725785283932160
Perlman, S., Jacobsen, G., & Afifi, A. (1989). Spread of a neurotropic murine coronavirus into the CNS via the trigeminal and olfactory nerves. Virology, 170(2), 556–560. https://doi.org/10.1016/0042-6822(89)90446-7
Perrett, C. (2020). The US Surgeon General once warned against wearing face masks for the coronavirus but the CDC now recommends it. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/americans-dont-need-masks-pence-says-as-demand-increases-2020-2
Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/public-health-recommendations.html
Shehade, H., Acolty, V., Moser, M., & Oldenhove, G. (2015, August 15). Cutting Edge: Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 Negatively Regulates Th1 Function. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://www.jimmunol.org/content/195/4/1372
Staff, R. (2020). Danish study finds face masks provide limited protection to wearer. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-facemasks/danish-study-finds-face-masks-provide-limited-protection-to-wearer-idUSKBN27Y1YW
To Mask or Not to Mask. (2020). Retrieved from https://afa.net/the-stand/culture/2020/11/to-mask-or-not-to-mask/
Westendorf AM, Skibbe K, Adamczyk A, Buer J, Geffers R, Hansen W, Pastille E, Jendrossek V. Hypoxia Enhances Immunosuppression by Inhibiting CD4+ Effector T Cell Function and Promoting Treg Activity. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2017;41(4):1271-1284. doi: 10.1159/000464429. Epub 2017 Mar 8. PMID: 28278498.
Wu Y, Xu X, Chen Z, Duan J, Hashimoto K, Yang L, Liu C, Yang C. Nervous system involvement after infection with COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Jul;87:18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.03.031. Epub 2020 Mar 30. PMID: 32240762; PMCID: PMC7146689.
Zhu JH, Lee SJ, Wang DY, et al. Effects of long-duration wearing of N95 respirator and surgical facemask: a pilot study. J Lung Pulm Respir Res. 2014;1(4):97–100. DOI: 10.15406/jlprr.2014.01.00021
Featured Related Articles
About Dr. Javaid Khan Dr. Javaid Khan, DO, is board-certified in two different specialties: Internal Medicine and Allergy and Clinical Immunology....
"When I first saw my first rhinoplasty procedure, I was so intrigued by the complexity… all of the emotional and psychological things that went...
Relax, put your mind at ease, and visualize yourself achieving the imaginable. You can also concentrate on the mundane—like flannel or the clouds,...