Masks are everywhere these days. What used to be a tool for burglars or trick-or-treaters to disguise themselves has now become a necessity. And even a fashion statement.
With growing numbers of people infected by COVID-19, masks and social distancing have become the new normal. But could too much mask-wearing be a problem?
If masks prevent the spread of viruses, couldn’t we just keep them on all the time? I mean, I wouldn’t have to shave as much. And it really brings out my eyes.
Why did San Francisco earn the reputation of the “masked city”? What kinds of masks should we be wearing? And if you never took one off, what would happen to your face?
The CDC, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that all people ages two and older should wear a mask in public settings. Especially indoors or when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have any symptoms whatsoever, and it’s known to travel and spread quickly through aerosols we produce with our mouths. Yet, even though mask-wearing is generally safe, wearing the same mask for too long could have terrible repercussions on your health. So, are you saying we shouldn’t wear it overnight?
While masks may prevent the spread of COVID-19 by 40%, keeping the same mask on all day and night could introduce a whole host of problems. In the words of the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, masks might stop people from “speaking moistly” on others, but all that moisture can still add up inside your mask.
Your mouth alone is host to over 700 species of bacterial microbes, and they thrive in damp environments. If your skin doesn’t get a chance to breathe, all this bacteria could lead to irritation and rashes, otherwise known as “maskne”. Oh, come on now, I already got over that in high school!
In fact, some masks are pre-treated with formaldehyde to disinfect them. Unfortunately, for some people, this can provoke allergies and more extreme skin issues.
With that in mind, you should make sure that whatever mask you wear fits well. The gap between the mask and your face shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. And if you exercise regularly, a mask can inhibit your ability to breathe properly, causing you to produce more carbon dioxide and sweat.
While some people think masks cause carbon dioxide intoxication, known as hypercapnia, this would only happen if masks were airtight. Thankfully, C02 particles are much smaller than coronavirus molecules, so they don’t stay trapped.
And if you use the same mask everyday, well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s time to wash that thing. It’s easy, just toss it in your laundry. Or if it’s disposable, just throw it out and get another one.
Cotton disposable masks are much more breathable, so you’re less likely to suffer from the dreaded “maskne'” and other skin problems. But they will wear out quickly. Also, if you’re already sick and sneezing or coughing in a mask, well, I wouldn’t put that thing back on.
Masks can carry all sorts of bacteria, even just by touching them with your hands. While there isn’t actually a consensus on how long you should wear one mask, any more than four to five hours is pushing your luck. They could grow mouldy and well, franky, you don’t want to be breathing that in.
So, when did this whole mask-wearing trend start? In the year 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged the world. Masks were employed heavily as the only line of defence and had funny names like muzzles and dirt traps.
They were made out of gauze and cheesecloth. Mm, cheesy. And similar to 2020, mask-wearing sparked protests, petitions, and defiant gatherings of anti-maskers.
Many suffragists, like women fighting for their right to vote, were actually against masks. This was because their voices were their weapons. They also wanted their leaders’ faces to be familiar to political figures.
San Francisco became known as the “masked city” with over 60,000 cases of influenza in the state and 7,000 of them in the city. In fact, if you were caught not wearing mask in San Fran, you could be fined 5 to 10 dollars or up to 10 days in jail. Keep in mind, that was a lot more money back then.
Masks were worn for 4 weeks and the spread of the flu was halted, but unfortunately, a second wave ended up coming. Nevertheless, these masks prevented thousands from dying.
So, if you’ve learned anything from this video, make sure you wash your masks or dispose of them regularly. It will keep you and others healthy, and let’s be honest, they look pretty darn cool.
- “Hypoxia | Taber’s Medical Dictionary”. 2020. tabers.com.
- “Hypercapnia: Causes, Treatment, And More”. 2020. Healthline.
- “COVID-19 And Your Health”. 2020. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.
- “How to Store and Wash Masks”. 2020. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention.
- “How Often Is Everyone Washing Their Masks?”. Hannah, Smothers. 2020. vice.com.
- “How long should you wear a face mask for – and how to bin them safely”. Fuller, Phoebe, and Matthew Smith. 2020. Hertslive.
- “Coronavirus: Tips To Avoid “Maskne” Skin Irritation”. Anna Lien-Lun Chien. 2020.