I do get some comments on my little blog now and again. Most of them are sweet or funny, some less so. I usually don’t respond more than a “like” or a hopefully witty one liner. I got a response recently that has bothered me, and at first I just wasn’t going to engage, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt I needed to. The question/comment posted was:
“Especially as you claim to have a medical qualification, do you accept that people have a genuine reason NOT to wear a mouthnosecovering? Like breathing problems otherwise, or a trauma which would make it very difficult for a person to cover their airways for a long period?
And the 42 studies which I have saved on my computer that say a piece of cloth is absolutely useless against a tiny, tiny, tiny particle? For example the widely accepted one, that wearing a surgical mask during operations is mostly just theatre?”
Wow…hard to know where to start, but I’m going to break it down point by point. But let me begin by saying that my goal here is not to berate or accuse, but to educate. I deal with people without specialized knowledge all the time. My biggest job is to try to help them to understand what is happening. Also, this isn’t really what my blog is about or even remotely intended to be about. This is not a medical blog, it’s a chastity/kink/sex/life blog. Having said that, let’s dive in.
As for “claiming “ I have a medical qualification, let me clarify. I do. I spent 4 years in college, then another 4 years in graduate school for medicine, followed by an internship and a 4 year residency (all at prestigious universities, mind you). I also did research and have published as well as sat a grueling 3 day examination to become board certified (as a surgeon). So yes, I believe I am qualified.
Number 2; I absolutely do not accept that the majority of people have some medical reason not to wear a mask. If you have such severe respiratory problems that wearing an appropriately protective face covering is not possible, you should probably be wearing a different kind of mask; an oxygen mask. Also, if you are that unhealthy and you get Covid, you are going to end up in ICU and probably very very sick or dead. So anyone who is healthy enough to be out and about has no real excuse here. Also, FYI, I have worn a surgical mask for, on average, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 30 years. It’s not that hard. It’s really not. Besides, this is a respiratory virus. It’s spread by breathing it in or out. That’s why you don’t need a mask to protect you from herpes.
As for the piece of cloth, they have a point here. A piece of cloth is useless. However, an appropriately fitted surgical mask (3 layers, woven and unwoven) provides significant protection. So, if you think that bandana is doing anything, it’s not. How do we know this? Because very smart people have actually studied it. People who have no agenda other than to report what the data is telling them. Yes, even a surgical mask will not prevent tiny particles from passing through ( and viruses are indeed tiny), but that’s not how we shed the virus. You see, we shed it in aerosol droplets, mostly large droplets from sneezing, coughing, speaking, etc). Masks stop aerosols. N95 masks can stop even tiny particles. Therefore, if you’re infected, and you are wearing a proper mask, you’re chance of infecting others is significantly lessened. That’s right…it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s about protecting others, such as those with medical conditions and traumas that the writer is concerned about. I would ask the writer if he feels it is okay to drive drunk? We don’t allow that, because apart from killing yourself, you will kill others. Again, it’s not about you . However, if you are masked and exposed to an infected person, the viral load you are exposed to will be significantly lower, meaning less chance of getting sick, or being less sick if you do get sick. And if you and the infected person are both masked, the risks are even lower, as the masks block the majority of the aerosols (also, FYI, this is the reason for “social distancing”. Aerosols are actually heavy, and generally don’t travel more than six feet or so. You’re not going to get infected by a respiratory virus that doesn’t reach your nose and mouth. Case in point: there was essentially no influenza last year, for the first time since infectious disease was reported).
As for the last part of the question, there is a very good reason we wear masks in surgery. You see, surgeons are people too. We sneeze, we cough, we talk, and sometimes we are not feeling so well ourselves. We don’t get to stay home when a trauma rolls in. Masks are designed so that if we sneeze or cough, the aerosols are directed away from the patient (out the sides of the mask and backwards). We are taught early on to not turn our heads if we sneeze. We want to face the patient and have our nasty germs go away from them. I trust you would prefer I not send loogies into your open abdomen if my allergies are acting up. Studies from the dawn of modern medicine have shown that simple acts such as washing your hands and covering your nose and mouth significantly decrease the risk of surgical infection. Interestingly, if you ever have orthopedic surgery, you will likely get your nose swabbed with antiseptic too, because patients can infect themselves with nasal discharge during surgery. So no, wearing a surgical mask is absolutely not “theater”. It is one of the single most important ways we decrease YOUR risk of getting complications. They also protect us from you. Trust me, I’ve had hemorrhages and ruptured things explode on me. We wear masks and protective eyewear just so that your disease doesn’t become our disease. It happens more often than you think.
Finally, as for your 42 articles, I have no idea what source they are from. If they’re from Fox News or CNN, they’re not studies. However, I have already granted that you are somewhat correct in that assertion. I would be pleased to direct you to any one of a number of journals where you can read the real source material and actual data, all available online, generally with a subscription however. You can search PubMed which links to hundreds of journals. Peer reviewed studies are published there, with results reported without bias. Let me give you a brief example: for decades people with gastric ulcers were treated with bland diets and antacids. No one really got better, at least not quickly. Then researchers noticed something very interesting in the biopsies of ulcers that were surgically excised. The majority of them had bacteria in them. A bacteria now know as Helicobacter pylori. Turns out, most ulcers are caused by bacteria, and you can treat them with a 2 week course of antibiotics. Nobody at the time believed the initial reports, but as numerous studies proved resolution of ulcers with antibiotic therapy, the conclusion was accepted. That’s how it works. We base our decisions on the best available data, not on what we think or hope or wish.
So that’s it. Wearing an appropriate face covering does protect you, and more importantly, protects others from you. But what’s even more important than wearing a mask is to get vaccinated. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if 90% of the population was vaccinated (see Iceland and Portugal if you want examples of the results of high vaccine uptake). So until everyone is vaccinated, wear the damn mask.