I just read this article about a 26 y/o man in Wuhan who was trying to get back into running after being locked up for 2 months. He ran 4 km before he decided to go home (his goal was 6km). Shortly thereafter, he was rushed to the hospital, where they discovered he had a collapsed lung, aka “pneumothorax.”
This brings up the question of the appropriate situations to be wearing face masks, if you’re wearing them. Many places are now mandating them, and there is definitely a point of diminishing returns, and even harm created.
By the way, the guy in the article may have had an underlying lung issue that was not disclosed or investigated, increasing his probability of pneumothorax. I don’t want to scare you into thinking that if you go for a hike with a mask on, that you WILL get a collapsed lung or anything. But this guy may have not known that he had a pre-existing lung issue before going for a run with a mask on. And maybe he did. Would he have made the same decision if he knew about a lung condition? Who knows. There’s always more to the story than we are presented with. Just keep that in mind.
By the way #2, I’m not going to be discussing my personal opinion about face masks and the pandemic in this email, in case you were wondering. It’s a whole other wheel of cheese for a different day, different discussion.
I’m here to discuss when and how often one should be wearing them. Of course, that is also my opinion, but it’s different than IF people should be wearing them at all, yes?
And again, none of this is intended as “If you do ____, then ____ WILL happen.” Nothing is guaranteed, anything is possible, and typically if you have some type of pre-existing condition (known or unknown), or the stars align just right, something could happen.
Pretty much globally, we’re now mandated to wear face masks in public, to some degree. I’m not sure if this will be the new standard, but since we “have” to do this thing, we might as well talk about safety, right?
In San Diego county, California, we must now wear face masks anytime we go inside buildings. If we come within 6 feet of another individual outside of our homes, we must wear a face mask. This is leading to many people wearing face masks while driving, walking, biking, exercising, or just being outside in general.
This can get pretty dangerous.
#1 thing, as we’ve discussed with regarding that 26 y/o fella with a collapsed lung, is that masks make it hard to breathe. If you can recall (and they still make these), there are companies that make masks that specifically restrict your breathing for training, to increase your respiratory function. You can do the same thing by breathing through a coffee straw, or wearing some sort of covering over your nose and mouth (like a handkerchief or facemask!). What we must remember is that the marketed masks are marketed and designed for training, meaning, short burst of exercise, and then you take it off to breathe normally again. Not during prolonged cardio, let alone an entire workout! It’s just too taxing for your entire respiratory system. This is how said gentleman ended up collapsing his lung.
#2 thing, when you wear that face covering, you’re blocking off the free flow of more oxygen-rich air that you’re supposed to inhale, and the more carbon dioxide-rich air that you’re exhaling. The better fitting the mask, the less airflow there will be, meaning not only will it be HARDER to breathe, but the air you breathe is just recycled air. If you need to wear a mask for a while, or your mask is very well-fitted, you may want to pull on the mask every couple minutes to allow the trapped air to be released, and new air to come in. Of course, if you’re worried about airborne contagions, do it in a place that’s safe, even if it’s under your jacket. Just make sure you’re changing the air in the mask FREQUENTLY. If you start to feel brain fog, dizzy/light-headed, it could mean that you’re getting hypoxic (not enough oxygen) and you may end up passing out. In that case, take the mask off and breathe some real air. The fresher, the better.
#3 thing, when you’re far enough away from someone and you want to have any sort of interpersonal communication. Facial expressions are extremely important in communication amongst people. When we don’t have that, it’s very difficult to tell what the other person is thinking or feeling. Also, we’re not able to hit those “happy buttons” in our brains if we don’t have that type of social connection. You might as well be communicating with a robot. We’re already being isolated and distanced from other humans to quite an extent. We don’t need to extend the distancing to human social connections any more than it already has been.
#4 thing, remember that if you’re in your car by yourself or people you live with, and you’re wearing a mask in there…ask yourself WHY? Why are you wearing that mask? Do you think there’s a contagion in the vehicle? If it’s in the vehicle, then why wouldn’t it be in your home? I’m not saying this to scare anyone, but just to take some possible logic paths a bit further. Unless you have a decontamination site you go through before entering your house, there is likely no good reason to wear a mask while you’re in your vehicle. At most, maybe spray the things you touch in there, like the steering wheel, the gear shift, and the seatbelt, but other than that, it’s kind of pointless. (Oh, and by the way, it’s better to spray your car with alcohol/disinfectant than it is to spray your hands, because if you over-sterilize yourself, you actually LOWER your immune system’s function, because you’re not letting it do its job, so it becomes lazy, and you can get sick a LOT easier!) Last bit about this, when you get in your car, make sure you take off your gloves, if you were wearing any. And please, please, please, dispose of them in the proper places. We don’t need litter everywhere!
#5 thing, having something around your jaw and head can make some people’s physical problems worse. The jaw and cranium are two major locations where the body stores trauma and emotional dissonance. For any of you who are non-traditional therapists like myself, you’ll know how much the cranium and the jaw can give you hassle while trying to help your clients and patients feel better! There are usually many layers of emotional, let alone physical blockages to work with before you can get full resolution.
So when and how long should you wear your mask for when you do wear it?
The rest of this is all my opinion…and based on logic, reasoning, and science.
1) Generally speaking, as little as possible for the maximum effect. There’s a point of diminishing returns for the benefits of wearing a mask and the amount of time it’s worn. Also the amount of continuous time it’s worn. And the fit, the type, and of course, the conditions. If you are not in immediate danger, don’t wear it. If you’re not going to put someone else in danger, don’t wear it. If you’re wearing a handkerchief or some type of cloth thing over your face without a N95 filter, you’re basically just preventing your bigger spit particles from flying out. The little ones still go through. And you’re restricting your air flow (unless you’re wearing a handkerchief or something that has an open bottom).
2) When you’re in an area where you’re mandated to wear it (like in stores or around people), make sure you can frequently take a quick “breather” by pulling the mask away from your face for a couple deep breaths to change the air between the mask and your body. You can unarguably do this anytime where there aren’t people around you
3) When you’re around actual sick people (COVID or not) who are contagious via air/saliva. Make sure you have a medical-grade mask. This is what hospitals do, and for a reason. Duh.
4) When you’re around people who have compromised immune system. Again, make sure you have a medical-grade mask. And again, this is what hospitals do, and for a reason. Again, duh.
5) When the air pollution is pretty bad and you’re getting affected by it. Usually when I travel in Asia, if the air is pretty bad, I’ll get a mask from the 7-11 or whatnot, or just cover my nose and mouth with my shirt so there’s at least some type of filter. I remember once, the pollution was so bad, I even wore swim goggles outside. If you follow me on IG stories, you may have seen that photo.
6) When you’re doing constructiony stuff like sanding, sawing, painting, and that sort of thing. Times where there will be fumes or tiny particles of chemicals flying around in the air. But in those cases, you’d be better off with a respirator mask that you find at hardware stores. A handkerchief is better than nothing. Also, keep in mind that the construction guys are still working right now, and they need these masks to protect themselves on the job as well. Don’t hog all the masks at the hardware store, please. You’ll be fine with a handkerchief if you can’t get an N95.
That’s about it. Take the thing off as soon as you can. And if you can’t for a while, make sure you take that “breather” often to prevent hypoxia. Adjust your ties/ear loops often as well, so they don’t do some inadvertent cranial shifting (just ask people who wear glasses about earaches and headaches from ill-fitting glasses!).
One more note, if you do end up with signs of hypoxia, don’t fret. You can simply do some breathing exercises on a daily basis to combat hypoxia to get your system back in order. If you’re having trouble taking those deep breaths, you can check out our Breathing Program, which includes some tricks and hacks to help you access the areas you’re having difficulty accessing.
Best in Health and Happiness,