As a measure of precaution to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the CDC has recommended wearing face coverings in public settings.
While it is not mandatory to wear face coverings in Texas, an increasing number of people reaches for masks when visiting crowded places like grocery stores, post offices and pharmacies, where maintaining social distancing of 6 feet may be difficult.
Fort Hood even requires community members to wear face masks for certain situations on base. Mandatory settings include all AAFES establishments such as the main PX, commissaries and any facility where 10 or more people may gather.
But with the spread of face masks, rumors about possible health risks caused by coverings sprang up online.
Elysse Gutierrez, infection preventionist at AdventHealth in Killeen, urged people with health concerns to talk to their physicians first before making decisions against face masks.
“If someone has a concern about wearing a mask, especially if the concern stems from a preexisting condition, they should talk to their doctor,” she said.
Instead of excusing people from wearing masks, various conditions rather emphasize the importance of the correct use of face coverings.
“The mask is intended to protect others from you, while others wearing a mask is intended to protect you, when you cannot maintain 6 feet distance,” Gutierrez said.
Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable and bothersome, but it’s ultimately a safety procedure that can affect everyone.
The news organization Reuters fact-checked the claim that wearing masks for a prolonged period of time can cause hypercapnia. The condition can arise from too much carbon dioxide in the blood.
Mild symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, shortness of breath and disorientation.
While CO2 does build up inside the mask when wearing it, Reuters reported that the levels are usually not dangerous.
According to information from the CDC, the level of CO2 that builds up inside the mask is mostly tolerable to people who don’t wear the mask for an extended period of time. While a sensitivity to CO2 makes wearing the mask more uncomfortable, it is unlikely to cause hypercapnia when occasionally wearing it out in public.
However, face masks are not necessary in every setting. The CDC does not recommend wearing face coverings while driving, especially if you’re alone in the car.
“A mask is also not necessary if you are going for a jog in your neighborhood or working out at home,” Gutierrez said.
If you are working out in a public setting and want to wear a face mask, it is recommended to check with your physician first.
Wearing a mask during a workout decreases air flow to your lungs, which makes exercising more difficult — even for people who are regularly working out and don’t suffer from any underlying health conditions.
Experts suggested to watch out for symptoms including lightheadedness, tingling and shortness of breath.