A worrying pattern has started to emerge in the post-pandemic world. It seems like people wearing masks are dying. The reason being touted is the prolonged period they wore masks to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.
While the thought in itself may seem absurd, some medical experts seem to agree that wearing masks brings its own dangers. Dr Sarah Javis revealed “Wearing a covering over your mouth and nose can make it harder to breathe if you’re exercising”
The worrying trend has happened several times in the past few months. 2 boys in China dropped dead within weeks of each other while they were wearing masks during gym class. Both the boys, aged 14 were running laps for a physical examination when the unfortunate incident occurred. The father of the boys blamed the mask for their demise. “I suspect it was because he was wearing a mask,” he said, adding that “it couldn’t have been comfortable wearing a mask while running.”
Similarly, a man from New Jersey wearing an N95 respirator mask passed out and crashed into a pole while driving. The Police Department investigating the incident said that they believe the incident could have been avoided if the driver wasn’t wearing a mask. In a statement, they said, “The crash is believed to have resulted from the driver wearing an N95 mask for several hours and subsequently passing out behind the wheel due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake.”
In another freak accident, a jogger from China had to be rushed to hospital as his lung collapsed while he was jogging outdoors wearing a mask. While the patients survived following a surgery, health experts believe the man's burst lung was caused by the mask he was wearing while running.
Why Some Are Saying That Masks Can Lead To Death
The argument made by people claiming that wearing masks is dangerous is that prolonged use of face masks can cause health problems and difficulty in breathing as it leads to inhalation of excessive carbon dioxide.
A Nigerian newspaper even held face makes guilty for causing hypoxia. It said “Breathing over and over exhaled air turns into carbon dioxide, which is why we feel dizzy. It causes discomfort, loss of reflexes and conscious thought. It generates great fatigue.”
Another Facebook post said that masks worn by people are the cause of hypercapnia, a condition that results in too much CO2 being present in the bloodstream. A quick google search will tell you the symptoms of the ailment, with it ranging from drowsiness and fatigue to even loss of consciousness and seizures.
The consensus, in this case, revolves around the belief that wearing masks will prevent the exhaled viruses from escaping, allowing it to enter the body via olfactory passages and therefore threatening the health of the person.
Medical Experts Say That Wearing A Mask Is Perfectly Safe
However, the claim doing the rounds has been debunked by medical experts worldwide. Several statements claim that the argument doesn’t hold scientific merit, and even if remotely true, the carbon dioxide levels are too low to cause any harm to the human body.
“It has to be a pretty high concentration to be capable of causing harm. CO2 is present in the atmosphere at a level of about 0.04%. It is dangerous in an atmosphere when it is greater than about 10%.” Bill Carrol, a professor from Indianan University told Health
Another professor of vaccinology gave the reason as to why the claim that the infected virus can enter through the nose of an infected person wearing a mask is baseless. She said that since tissues in the nose already harbour the virus of an infected person, breathing in and out the virus isn’t going to cause much of a difference.
With several medical organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verifying the claim that masks indeed are necessary to protect yourself from the coronavirus, it looks like it is safe to wear them after all.
The Safety Of The Masks Depends Upon Its Type And Your Own Health
While masks, in general, are safe, their efficiency depends on the type of masks as well. Additionally, different people react differently to wearing masks, owing to their pre-existing health conditions.
If you look at this claim in combination with the one that says wearing masks can be dangerous to one’s health, you’ll understand where those insinuations are originating from.
Not all masks are the same, and they fit differently as well. A homemade cloth mask is much easy to wear than a tight N95 respirator. The above incident of the driver crashing into a pole was wearing an N95 mask.
So while wearing cloth and surgical masks may be safe for you since they’re not tight-fitting, the same can’t be said for N95 respirators. The respirators have been known to be uncomfortable to wear and in some cases have also led to oxygen deficiency. A Stanford engineer developing an alternative believes that wearing N95 masks for long periods comes with its own set of problems. “N95 masks are estimated to reduce oxygen intake by anywhere from 5 to 20 per cent. That’s significant, even for a healthy person. It can cause dizziness and light-headedness. If you wear a mask long enough, it can damage the lungs. For a patient in respiratory distress, it can even be life-threatening.
Even medical experts agree that someone who has a pre-existing condition like obesity or is a chain smoker can face problems with the N95 respirator. “Someone wearing an N95 mask for a prolonged period of time may have alterations in their blood chemistry that could lead to changes in the level of consciousness if severe,” said infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja