Doctors provide information and bust myths about our first and best line of defense during the pandemic
As of July 20, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 3.7 million people and caused over 140,000 deaths in the United States. In April many of the cases across the globe leveled off after social distancing measures were implemented. However, as many countries tried to resume normal activities in May and June, new infections increased again.
Social distancing and quarantining are not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Recently, the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, published a paper that reviewed 172 studies from 16 countries and determined that wearing a mask could reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to around 3%.
Despite the consensus on face masks within the scientific community, there are still many myths and misconceptions about face masks circulating in the public domain. Leaders of the American Migraine Foundation wrote “Unmasking the Myths and Misconceptions About Face Masks,” a free downloadable guide that debunks common mask myths while providing valuable background on the COVID-19 pandemic and more.
How masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus and is spread between people when they talk, sing, breathe, cough or sneeze. Viral particles are encased in droplets of mucus, saliva, and water. Larger droplets fall to surfaces faster than smaller particles. Smaller particles become aerosolized (sprayed from the mouth) and can linger in the air and drift longer distances with air currents.
Surgical masks are loose-fitting disposable coverings whose main purpose is to prevent the spread of airborne droplets to others but may also keep larger droplets from being inhaled by the wearer. Woven cotton or fabric masks reduce the spread of larger droplets to others.
How to safely put on and take off your face mask
One common myth about masks is that they can make you sick. That is not true if you use the mask properly. Here are some helpful tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Place your mask over your mouth and nose.
- Tie it behind your head or use ear loops and make sure it’s snug.
- Don’t touch your mask while wearing it.
- If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
- Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
- Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
Be sure to regularly wash your mask with soap and water in the washing machine. It’s fine to wash it with other clothes.
Migraine and Face Masks
Some people complain of headaches from their face masks. These headaches are not due to lack of oxygen or a buildup of carbon dioxide. Some people develop compression headaches from the tight bands that secure the mask to their heads. Others may develop migraine because they are not keeping well hydrated or are missing meals while wearing their masks.
If you are susceptible to migraine attacks, we suggest that you limit the consecutive hours you wear your mask and remember to keep well hydrated and not skip meals.
If you develop headaches from the tight bands that secure your mask, try to limit the duration you wear the mask. You can also experiment with different types of masks or goggles that exert less pressure against your head.
While mixed messages and misconceptions about masks caused those who wear masks to become stigmatized, it is still important to wear one. Those of us living with migraine know what it’s like to live with stigma. We fight it daily.
Let us not lose sight that COVID-19 is a life-threatening disease and that by wearing a mask, you are protecting the health of your family and friends, your fellow citizens and yourself.
Together, we are as relentless as migraine more relentless than COVID-19.
Read our guide, “Unmasking the Myths and Misconceptions About Face Masks,” today.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.