Breathing test debunks myth about face coverings

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Among the reasons people give for not wearing masks to help protect themselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the false belief that face coverings can sicken otherwise healthy people over the age of 2.

“There is a myth out there,” said Dr. Asad Nasir, pulmonary medicine doctor from Arnot Ogden Medical Center. “Unfortunately, in public people believe having a mask decreases your oxygen levels.”

Sister station WETM took that theory to the test at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, N.Y. to see how different face coverings affect healthy individuals and their ability to breathe.

“Face masks are made to catch micro-particles, not limit someones breathing,” Dr. Nasir said.

Airflow was tracked with a respiratory machine that tracked oxygen intake, carbon dioxide outflow, and breaths per minute.

Six different tests were conducted:

  1. No face-covering
  2. Blue surgical mask
  3. Cloth mask
  4. Homemade covering/bandana
  5. Wearing two masks at once
  6. Wearing a mask while doing physical activities (10 jumping jacks and 30 sec. of jogging in place)

The data showed no change in breathing ability from tests 1-5. During test six, oxygen levels increased during physical activity.

“The presence of a mask does not interfere with oxygen delivery or eliminating carbon dioxide from your body,” Dr. Nasir said. “Having two masks on does not change the oxygen or carbon dioxide levels either.”

Dr. Nasir said there are very few anatomic diseases that prevent an individual from wearing a face covering, but there are some.

“Somebody who’s had a tracheostomy, for example, may not be able to wear a mask,” Dr. Nasir said.

Others who depend on assistive devices constantly because of a neuromuscular disease are also unable to wear a covering.

“Wearing a mask has proven (to) decrease … transmission not only for the person wearing it, but also for the person they’re interacting with,” Dr. Nasir said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

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