The Facts About Face Masks

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDJune 17th, 2020
Face mask

Face masks. They’ve become the fashion statement of the spring and a topic of much debate among people from all walks of life. You’ve likely been bombarded with opinions about the effectiveness of face masks against coronavirus (COVID-19): when you should wear one, what type you should wear, and if they’re even necessary at all. To help clear up the confusion, let’s walk through some of these hot topics and separate fact from fiction.

What Are the Current Face Mask Recommendations?

The coronavirus pandemic is a continually evolving situation. Inevitably, the same can be said for face mask guidelines. Scientists and medical professionals are learning more about this new disease every day, so face mask recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the national authority on public health issues—are subject to change.

With this in mind, the CDC currently recommends that people over 2 years old wear face masks, or cloth face coverings, when in public places to help slow the spread of disease. These recommendations also apply to healthy individuals who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19. It is especially important to cover your face while in crowded areas where adhering to social distancing guidelines may be more difficult, like grocery stores, buses, and airplanes. The CDC encourages non-medical workers to purchase a cloth mask or make their own to help avoid shortages of N-95 respirators and surgical masks that are critical to the wellbeing of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals on the front line.


Are Face Masks Effective?

Yes, face masks are effective. While no preventive measure can absolutely guarantee that you won’t be exposed to or spread coronavirus, studies have shown that wearing a face mask and practicing other good habits, such as frequent hand washing and social distancing, can help slow the community-based transmission of disease.

Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that can be spread while speaking, coughing, or sneezing. Wearing a mask over your face limits how many of these droplets can travel in the air and reach others. It is important for everyone over the age of 2—even young and healthy adults—to wear a face mask while in public, since not all COVID-19 cases produce symptoms. It is very possible to have COVID-19 and feel completely fine!

Are Face Masks Bad For You?

There has been some recent chatter about whether face masks reduce oxygen levels and force people to breathe in too much of their own carbon dioxide (CO2). This is a valid concern, since excess CO2 inhalation can be toxic and lead to an array of problems like headaches, double vision, lightheadedness, and even suffocation. However, unless you wear your face mask extremely tight against your face for an extended period of time (don’t do this), the chances of losing significant amounts of oxygen are slim. A face mask should cover your nose and mouth and be secured to your face, but it should not fit tightly or be uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, individuals who have respiratory diseases may occasionally find it challenging to breathe normally while wearing a face mask for long stretches of time. If you have

COPD or another lung disease that leaves you short of breath, be sure to wear a properly fitting cloth covering, when possible, and try to limit how much time you spend in crowded areas. Cloth face coverings generally allow for more airflow than medical face masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers.

The Bottom Line

Wearing a face mask does not definitively guarantee that you won’t contract or transmit coronavirus. However, wearing one does reduce your likelihood of spreading it to others, and it may provide some level of protection for you, as well. It is a simple step you can take to help fight the spread of coronavirus in your community and protect high-risk individuals from disease.

How DispatchHealth is Responding to COVID-19

DispatchHealth is committed to responding to the rapidly changing needs of our patients. That’s why we’ve expanded our services to include in-home COVID-19 testing and treatment. Our qualified medical teams are fully equipped to care for COVID-19 patients in the comfort and safety of their own homes and adhere to the most stringent of sanitization protocols to ensure the safety of our medical professionals and patients. Additionally, we are still delivering the same world-class, on-demand care to patients with other health concerns, providing a safer and more convenient alternative to visiting a crowded urgent care clinic or physician’s office.

house call during pandemic

To learn more about our in-home medical care and how we’re responding to the COVID-19 crisis, contact DispatchHealth today. Our urgent care services can easily be requested via phone, mobile app, or online, and our medical providers typically arrive at your doorstep within a few hours.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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