Does wearing a mask pose any health risks?
No, not for most people. Babies and toddlers should not wear masks because they could suffocate. The same goes for anyone who has trouble removing a mask without help.
Others can wear masks without risking their health, according to experts, despite false rumors to the contrary.
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Illustration by Peter Hamlin.;
In areas where COVID-19 is spreading, health experts agree that wearing masks or other face coverings in public helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus when people can’t socially distance by staying 6 feet apart.
The coronavirus mainly spreads through droplets that are emitted when people talk, laugh, sing, cough and sneeze. Masks lower the likelihood of those droplets reaching other people. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you could be carrying the virus and could spread it.
When it’s humid outside, it could feel like it’s harder to breathe if you’re not used to wearing a mask, said Benjamin Neuman, a professor of biology at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. But he said masks don’t meaningfully decrease oxygen in the body.
“The body is quite good at adjusting to keep oxygen levels where they need to be,” he said.
There’s also no evidence that the use of masks causes fungal or bacterial infections, according to Davidson Hamer, an infectious disease expert at Boston University. Disposable face masks are meant to be used once, then thrown in the garbage. With cloth masks, it’s a good idea to wash them regularly.
Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable, but health officials say you should resist any urge to touch your face. That could bring germs from your hands into your nose, mouth or eyes.
Related Slideshow: Greetings in the time of coronavirus outbreak (Provided by Photo Services)
U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Richard Burr greet each other with an elbow bump in Washington, D.C., U.S., on May 12.
Charles, Prince of Wales, joins his hands in a namaste to greet The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood (L) as he attends the Prince’s Trust And TK Maxx & Homesense Awards in London, England, on March 11.
Two friends greet each other with their feet, also known as “the Wuhan Shake,” in Berlin, Germany, on April 20.
A man greets his son after he disembarked from a plane at Kuwait International Airport in Farwaniya Governorate, Kuwait, on April 20.
Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (L) greets U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace (R) as they visit border units in Hatay, Turkey, on March 13.
A nurse shows a heart gesture with her hands, in response to a musical band thanking them for their efforts to support patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Byblos, Lebanon, on April 23.
A hospital worker blows a kiss to people participating in a “Headlights for Hope” event at the INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S., in a show of support for healthcare workers on April 9.
Chiara Appendino, mayor of Italian town Turin (R) greets a member of Federation of Italian Partisan Associations (FIAP) with an elbow bump on April 24.
The vice headmaster at Ringsted Lilleskole welcomes pupils back to school with an air high-five in Ringsted, Denmark, on April 20. The school was shut for five weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Two men greet each other with an elbow bump in Seville, Spain, on May 5.
Two couples exchange hugs from a distance in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., on April 12.
Two customers greet each other with a foot touch while shopping in Rayleigh, England, on April 29.
A man makes a heart sign with his hands at an Easter drive-in service at the International Church of Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on April 12.
A group of medical workers greet each other using social distancing at the entrance to the Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, New York, U.S., on April 7.
A medical worker gives an air high-five to her mother outside NYU Langone Health hospital in New York City as people applaud to show their gratitude to medical staff and essential workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, on April 23.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump greet each other with a namaste at the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 12.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan makes the Vulcan salute from the Star Trek TV and movie series, after speaking at a news conference held to announce measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on March 11.
Former Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Sen. Bernie Sanders do an elbow bump before the start of the Democratic candidates’ debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, in Washington, D.C., on March 15.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bump elbows as they attend a lunch in Washington, D.C., on March. 12.
Men tap their feet in New Delhi, India, on March 16.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin raises his elbow to greet members as he arrives to speak at a State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing in Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 11.
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) and a party member greet each other with their hands on chest during the party’s group meeting in Ankara, Turkey, on March 11.
Pupils greet each other with a foot-to-foot tap in Hove, England, on March 4.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence greets a woman with an elbow bump at Camp Murray in Tacoma, Washington, on March 5.
Peruvian-born writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa (L) wears a face mask as he greets the regional president of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso (R), with an elbow bump ahead of a ceremony awarding the Gold Medal of Madrid to every resident of the Spanish capital at the City Hall in the Cibeles Palace in Madrid, Spain, on May 15.