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Tips to Help You #MaskUpDSM

#MaskUpDSM Tips

December 10, 2020

UnityPoint Health Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Rossana Rosa gives advice on masking to help keep people safe and encourage the community to #MaskUpDSM.

Keep Your Masks Clean

There is a misconception that wearing masks can cause bacterial and fungal infections — like pneumonia. With regular breathing, respiratory droplets will land on your mask from exhaling. When you breathe back in, those droplets will not cause pneumonia.

If you have phlegm, safely spit it out — away from others — to avoid inhaling it back into your lungs. Bacterial pneumonia does develop from excess mucus and saliva in the lungs.

Fungal pneumonia is rare and usually occurs in people with low performing immune systems. This type of pneumonia is caused by inhaling mold. Hypothetically, you could get pneumonia from wearing an old, moldy mask. It’s good practice to thoroughly wash and dry masks after each use. A clean mask will help to prevent spread of your respiratory droplets as you take your mask on and off.

Not All Face Masks Are the Same

There many types of masks, so it may be confusing to determine which masks will do the best to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the wearer. The type of fabric and number of layers are important factors to keep in mind. Cloth face masks are the type of mask recommended for the public. The best cloth masks should have two or three layers of cotton. This is the problem with some gaiters being used as face masks; they have only one thin layer that requires touching the outside of the face covering to adjust. As an alternative, there are online tutorials to make a multi-layer mask at home!

When utilizing a face shield, it should sit level with your ears — without openings on your forehead — and extend past your chin.

Masks Won’t Cause a Buildup of Carbon Dioxide

Cloth face masks allow adequate exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It may feel strange at first to wear a mask, but you will be getting plenty of oxygen. There’s no need to worry, a recent study shows that masks won’t prevent your lungs from retaining oxygen.

There are certain people who have underlying lung conditions that struggle to get adequate oxygen exchange. In those cases, they should talk with their doctor to find an option that works best for them.

Wearing a Face Mask Minimizes the Risk of Spreading COVID-19

There is a common argument that wearing a mask is like putting a screen door in a submarine. This is false. Wearing a face mask reduces the number of respiratory droplets from entering and exiting the air when we talk, cough, or sneeze.

Masks are effective. By wearing a mask, you are lowering the risk of spreading the virus in case you are unaware that you have it, and they also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration. If we all wear face masks, each of us can do our part to keep the community safe.

Face masks are an added layer of protection to physical distancing. The best way to safely avoid COVID-19 is to socially distance when it is possible, keeping at least six feet in between you and others. It’s best to avoid crowded areas and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. You should continue to frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water and clean commonly touched surface areas.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is working with its partners to encourage businesses and community to Mask Up DSM. You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates. See more on COVID-19 here.

Dr. Rossana Rosa

Rossana Rosa, MD, is an infectious disease specialist at UnityPoint Clinic Multi-Specialty - Methodist Plaza. She has appeared as a COVID-19 resource for various local and national media interviews.