Breathing test debunks myth about face-coverings


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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Wearing face-coverings continue to be mandatory in most states. President Donald Trump has recently been encouraging Americans to wear a face-covering in order to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.

Many don’t like to wear a face-covering because they think it restricts oxygen intake and carbon dioxide flow.

“There is a myth out there,” said Dr. Asad Nasir, Pulmonary Medicine Doctor from Arnot Ogden Medical Center. “Unfortunately, in public people believe having a mask decreases your oxygen levels.”

18 News’ Tai Wong took that theory to the test at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, N.Y. to see how different face-coverings affected healthy individuals breathing ability.

“Face masks are made to catch micro-particles, not limit someone’s breathing,” Dr. Nasir said.

Airflow was tracked with a respiratory machine that tracked oxygen intake, carbon dioxide outflow, and breaths per minute.

Six different tests were conducted:

  1. No face-covering
  2. Blue surgical mask
  3. Cloth mask
  4. Homemade covering/Bandana
  5. Wearing two masks at once
  6. Wearing a mask while doing physical activities (10 jumping jacks and 30 sec. of jogging in place)

The data showed no change in breathing ability from tests 1-5. During test six, oxygen levels increased during physical activity.

“The presence of a mask does not interfere with oxygen delivery or eliminating carbon dioxide from your body,” Dr. Nasir said. “Having two masks on does not change the oxygen or carbon dioxide levels either.”

For someone who has a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma, Dr. Nasir said they are not a contraindication or problem with wearing a mask. In some cases, there are very few anatomic diseases that prevent an individual from wearing a face covering.

“Somebody who’s had a tracheostomy, for example, may not be able to wear a mask,” Dr. Nasir said.

Others who depend on assistive devices constantly because of a neuromuscular disease are also unable to wear a covering.

“Wearing a mask has proven the decrease of transmission not only for the person wearing it, but also for the person they’re interacting with,” Dr. Nasir said.

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