Do masks affect your breathing? We put some common myths to the test


ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Time and time again health experts have stressed the importance of wearing a mask, saying it’s the single best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. But many people refuse to wear one, claiming everything from a lack of air to fear of breathing in too much carbon dioxide. However, the data doesn’t support those arguments.

“There are a lot of rumors and myths surrounding oxygen levels while wearing different kinds of masks,” says Dr. Amith Jacob of OSF Healthcare.

Dr. Jacob is a pulmonologistin Rockford. To demonstrate how types of face coverings affect someone’s ability to breath, he hooked up a test patient to a pulse oximeter–which measures blood oxygen levels.

Dr. Jacob says health adults should have a blood oxygen level between 95 and 100%.

The first mask that was tested was a cloth mask. Even after wearing her mask several minutes, the test patients blood oxygen level stayed at 98%.

Next, we tested a disposable surgical mask. Again, she showed healthy blood oxygen levels.

“We wear these surgical masks throughout the day in the office, surgeons wear these during prolonged surgeries, and I have not heard of a surgeon who has passed out yet because their oxygen levels are low,” Dr. Jacob explained.

The final mask we tested was an N95 mask–which physicians and nurses who care for COVID-positive patients wear. Although Dr. Jacob describes them as the most uncomfortable of the masks, the results were the same.

“Those are the masks they wear for hours at a time, and no one has been able to show that it reduces the oxygen levels,” the doctor said.

Dr. Jacob said some patients have expressed concerns about wearing a mask because of increased exposure to carbon dioxide. He says there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.

“To date, as far as we know, there have been no studies that the blood CO2 levels go up by wearing a cloth mask or a single-use face mask,” Dr. Jacob said.


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