What is true about face masks, though, is that they help prevent the spread of COVID-19
General practitioner Maitiu O Tuathail filmed himself putting on not one but six masks, all the while testing his oxygen levels. In the end? “It had no effect on my oxygen levels!” the doctor captioned the video posted to Twitter.
In the video, as O Tuathail strapped on mask after mask, the monitor displayed a steady 99 percent oxygen level. “That’s consistent whether you wear six masks for one minute or for the entire day. The level of oxygen in your blood won’t change,” O Tuathail says, per Business Insider.
“Getting asked “does wearing a face mask lower your oxygen levels?” repeatedly by patients today! Based on what they are reading on social media,” O Tuathail wrote on Twitter. “Face coverings/masks don’t reduce your oxygen levels!”
Of course, the doctor was met with quite a bit of pushback on Twitter from people asking questions, like, “But what if you wore it for 10 minutes? What would the oxygen levels look like then?” or “What would happen if you excised while wearing one?!”
“Because oxygen molecules are so tiny, they can permeate through whatever it is you put on your face, no matter how long you leave it on your face for,” O Tuathail said.
As if that wasn’t enough, the American Lung Association (ALA) also released a statement addressing the belief that masks make it difficult to breath and drop oxygen levels.
“We wear masks all day long in the hospital. The masks are designed to be breathed through and there is no evidence that low oxygen levels occur,” ALA wrote. ALA did note, though, that some evidence exists that prolonged use of N-95 masks in patients with preexisting lung disease could cause some build-up of carbon dioxide levels in the body and that those people with preexisting lung problems should discuss mask wearing concerns with their health care providers. In the end, though, “there is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system,” ALA states.
Add to that Kirsten Koehler’s — an associate professor in environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. — statement that “scientific studies [show] that there’s no real important changes in C02 levels or oxygen levels even from wearing surgical masks.”
“And fabric masks have better permeation for gases,” Koehler told TODAY. “It’s not something that I’m concerned about at all. Probably more likely is that people are hot when wearing a mask and so people maybe just feeling overheated.”
The big takeaway here? Wear a damn mask. The U.S. currently has more than 4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 144,780 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. Social distancing combined with wearing a mask will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.