Do Masks Help Prevent COVID-19? Here’s What Experts Have to Say

There has been a constant swirl of misinformation around masks. We got experts to answer your queries.

Published
WebQoof
4 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

As the lockdown eases, with more and more relaxations being introduced, people are tentatively stepping out, going to offices, and trying to adjust to the new normal.

The tools that enable this, during the pandemic, are physical distancing, sanitizers and face masks. But, there has been a constant swirl of misinformation around masks – should you wear them, do they really help, how do you wear them, or will not wearing them give you herd immunity?

Dr Arvind Kumar, a leading pulmonologist, says it’s necessary to wear masks at least for the next few months.

“Over the next few months, we need to wear masks every time we step outside the house. We have to presume that every other person is infected and maintain at least one-meter distance from them, wherever we are and whatever time of day it is. Maintain one meter distance, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and avoid going out of the house, as far as possible.”
Dr Arvind Kumar, Pulmonologist

DO MASKS POSE A SERIOUS HEALTH RISK?

A lot of people have a doubt regarding masks causing ‘Hypercapnia’ – an unhealthy increase in carbon dioxide levels in the blood. According to Dr Kumar, wearing a mask while exercising can be “fatal”.

“When you exercise, your body oxygen requirement goes up and the body produces more carbon dioxide. So, the body needs oxygen and it needs to clear more carbon dioxide. If you are wearing a mask during that time, you will not be able to take in enough air, which is needed. Wearing a mask during exercise is harmful and should not be done. In fact, it can be life-threatening.”
Dr Arvind Kumar, Pulmonologist

WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT ADVISORY SAY?

The Indian government has advised healthy people to wear homemade face masks, especially outside their homes, for better personal hygiene and for the protection of their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, this face cover is not recommended for health workers, those working with, or in contact with COVID-19 patients or the patients themselves. They should use a triple-layer medical mask or the N95 respiratory masks.

Anatomy of the N-95 Mask
Anatomy of the N-95 Mask
(Graphics by Aroop Mishra)

HOW DO MASKS HELP?

Health experts suggest that masks mostly help stop an infected person from spreading the virus. Dr Sonali Sengupta, a microbiologist associated with the Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID (ISRC) says, “COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets from cough, sneeze or spit of an infected person. By wearing a mask, we are trying to block droplets coming out of an infected person or prevent inhaling droplets.”

“New studies have shown that the virus thrives in respiratory droplets suspended in air. People with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic. So, if everyone wears a mask, there are lesser chances of an asymptomatic but infected person infecting others.”
Sonali Sengupta, Microbiologist (Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID)

SIMPLE DOs AND DON’Ts OF WEARING FACE MASK RIGHT

How to wear a face mask right.
How to wear a face mask right.
(Graphics by Arnica Kala)
How to wear a face mask right.
How to wear a face mask right.
(Graphics by Arnica Kala)
How to wear a face mask right.
How to wear a face mask right.
(Graphics by Arnica Kala)
How to wear a face mask right.
How to wear a face mask right.
(Graphics by Arnica Kala)
How to wear a face mask right.
How to wear a face mask right.
(Graphics by Arnica Kala)

ARE MASKS AN ALTERNATIVE TO PHYSICAL DISTANCING?

By wearing masks, you are preventing air droplets from going far away and also preventing air droplets from entering your lungs while breathing. Social distancing is achieving the same purpose but masks cannot be a substitute for social distancing.

At a time when the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India have crossed one lakh, it is becoming increasingly important for all of us to exercise precaution. But, at the same time, it is equally important to stay away from spreading misinformation as chaos only adds to panic.

(You can read all our coronavirus related fact-checked stories here.)

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on Whatsapp at 9643651818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

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