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Are Face Masks Effective Against COVID-19? The Pros and the Cons

Some say masks pose serious health risks for individual wearers. Other studies however show masks can lead to a 90% drop in new cases.

Science Times, May 18, 2020

First, it was gloves that health professionals deemed as potentially hazardous, now, face masks also face the same critique as a health expert, Dr. Russell Blaylock says it poses serious health risks for wearers. Mainstream doctors however say otherwise.

Blaylock, a retired U.S. neurosurgeon and author, cautions that face masks cannot entirely protect you from getting sick and catching pathogens. He adds that it can also pose a serious health risk for wearers. He stresses that only ill people should wear face masks.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, people everywhere have been wearing protective equipment such as face masks, face shields, and gloves. Wearing gloves in public places such as the grocery had been previously debunked as 'unhelpful' or possibly harmful, especially if not used properly.

Are Face Masks Effective Against COVID-19?

The Cleveland Clinic says that gloves do not provide immunity from viruses, and it doesn't permit you to touch everything within reach. Furthermore, germs that come in contact with your gloves could be transferred to all the other surfaces you touch.

Now, even face masks face the same critique as Dr. Blaylock says that exhaled viruses would not be given a chance to escape if wearing a mask. He says that the virus would further concentrate and circulate within the nasal passages and could eventually travel into the brain.

According to Dr. Blaylock, there have been no studies conducted to establish that either a cloth mask or the N95 mask has an impact on the transmission of the coronavirus. It was not until recently that the Commission on Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines for wearing face masks.

Previously, they only advised sick people to wear protective masks, but now they encourage everyone to wear them when out in public since it has been found out that some could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus. The CDC also has guidelines for wearing cloth masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Harmful Effects of Wearing a Face Mask

Aside from the lack of scientific evidence pointing to requiring the use of a face mask for preventive measures, several studies have explored the dangers of wearing a face mask, especially for long periods.

These dangers include increased airway resistance, accumulation of carbon dioxide, hypoxia or inadequate oxygen supply, headaches, and even other life-threatening complications.

In a study conducted by the National Taiwan University Hospital, it has been found that the use of N-95 masks in healthcare workers has caused them to experience hypoxemia, the low level of oxygen in the blood, and hypercapnia, an elevation in the blood's carbon dioxide levels.

Another study reported findings of headache in health professionals using the same protective face mask. Similarly, pregnant women wearing N-95 masks were also found to have breathing difficulties associated with the use of the mask.

Researchers suggest that the benefits of using N95 masks to prevent contraction of infectious diseases should be weighed against possible respiratory consequences linked with extended use of N95 masks.

Newer evidence also reveals that the coronavirus may enter the brain in some cases. By wearing a mask, viruses released upon expiration will not be given a chance to escape and will further congregate in the nasal passages. This allows the virus to enter the olfactory nerves and travel further, eventually reaching the brain.

Dr. Blaylock says that one should not attack or criticize healthy people who do not wear masks, as studies point out that it may be a wise choice after all.

The Benefits of Using Face Masks Against COVID-19

In a previous report by Science Times, it noted that the number of COVID-19 cases in Austria went down from 90 to 10 cases per one million people within two weeks after its government required everyone to wear a face mask on April 6.

According to Daily Mail, "Austria seemingly managed to reverse its crisis by making masks compulsory on April 6, following a spike in infections in late March."

This seems to be the case in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well. They were the first countries to make masks compulsory in Europe and enjoyed a small infection rate per capita.

UK, on the other hand, which said that wearing a mask could spread the virus has seen 82 out of 100,000 Britons infected, while 25 per 100,000 died due to COVID-19.

UK's Public Health England argued that wearing masks causes people to touch their face and increases the chances of a person acquiring the virus.

George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Telegraph, "The big mistake in the US and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren't wearing masks."

Gao added, "This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role - you've got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth."

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