The Mask Controversy Is Difficult to Hear as a Chronically Ill Patient
As a person living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic respiratory condition characterized by progressive scarring of the lungs and reduced oxygen, I’ve been wearing a mask for years in public places. Learning to wear a mask to protect my now-compromised lungs was difficult for me, so I understand the general public’s hesitation and dislike of mandatory mask orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing masks to help slow the spread of the virus, so we all must do our part.
Reactions to the global pandemic have brought out the best and the worst in people, both on social media and in person. You don’t have to look hard to find glimmers of positivity that have emerged from COVID-19 and the social isolation we’ve all had to endure; drive-by birthday parties and quality time via digital correspondence are just a few examples. Unfortunately, the other end of that spectrum includes negativity, complaining, and controversy when it comes to the pandemic.
The controversy flooding my social media pages is about the use of masks. Many Canadian provinces and U.S. states have implemented mandatory mask laws to reduce the spread of the virus. As a lung disease patient, I understand masks are uncomfortable and may feel unnatural to wear in public or around others. However, I am pleading with you to abide by these orders and help stop the controversy surrounding their use.
I am deeply angered and upset when I hear comments that masks infringe on someone’s rights or freedoms, or cause those with perfectly healthy lungs to experience a drop in oxygen saturation levels. The physicians, nurses, and surgeons who have saved my life on multiple occasions (and possibly yours or your loved one’s as well) wear masks for 12-hour shifts on a regular basis. To dispel the myth that masks decrease your oxygen saturation, several nurses and medical professionals have also shared videos showing that oxygen levels are normally maintained after wearing a mask for several hours. The American Lung Association confirmed this in a recent post.
While people who are healthy may have the choice to wear a mask, I do not. Due to IPF, I am at an increased risk of getting sick all year; a mask is not optional for me. I’ve learned the hard way how damaging acute illnesses can be on my lungs and how hard it is to recover from them. If you do have the choice, please make the right one and follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations on wearing a mask to help slow the spread of this virus.
Wearing a mask is an act of love for your neighbor and those in your community. While I acknowledge that it is uncomfortable, choosing to wear a mask tells those of us who are more vulnerable to this disease that you see us. It is a collective effort that protects all of us. I am pleading with those who are creating this controversy to educate themselves using credible sources of information that address their concerns.
To better understand how a mask can help cease the spread of this virus, or how wearing a mask does not damage your lungs or oxygen levels, please see the following resources. Feel free to share with your friends and family if they are contributing to the controversy. We all need to do our part. Please note that this list is not exhaustive. The following articles can be helpful in addition to the ones linked throughout this column:
- “Still Confused About Masks? Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus” (University of California, San Francisco)
- “COVID-19 – What We Know So Far About…Wearing Masks in Public” (Public Health Ontario)
- “5 Questions: Stanford scientists on COVID-19 mask guidelines” (Stanford Medicine)
- “Masks” (BC Centre for Disease Control)
- “Should I wear a face mask in public?” (Australian Government Department of Health)
As a patient living with IPF/PF, how are you dealing with the mask controversy amid the global pandemic?
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.