Myth or Mask: Dayton doctor answers questions about wearing face masks in public

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Guidelines for wearing face masks in public are continually changing leaving many in need of an explanation and understanding of proper protocol.

“We are learning, it seems to me, literally something new every day. Something that will improve the diagnosis, the care, the prevention of [COVID-19],” says Dr. Sherman Alter, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Alter debunks some common myths about wearing face masks that are creating confusion and offers his do’s and don’ts for mask wearing.

“If you are in a position where [you] cannot control the possibility of individuals coming within six feet…I think a healthy person should wear a mask in public,” said Dr. Alter.

Many have questioned whether it is necessary for healthy individuals to wear masks when out in public. Dr. Alter points to the approximately 25 percent of the population that are carrying the virus inside them with no symptoms.

“I think the most important thing is distancing from other individuals [and] also realizing that there may be some spread from persons who don’t have symptoms,” he said.

Dr. Alter also says it’s not necessary for many people to wear an N95 mask, however he does recommend wearing a paper or cloth face mask in public.

“If I am caring for a person that would have COVID-19…and I might generate an aerosol or spray and we’re doing a procedure where respiratory droplets will be put into the air, then I need to wear an N95 mask,” Dr. Alter explains. “Walking in public, even in a supermarket or pharmacy doesn’t necessitate that you and I wear an N95 mask.”

Alter says it’s important to keep masks clean. Cloth masks should be washed in a washer machine once they’ve become soiled, wet or dirty. Paper masks should be thrown away after one day.

Dr. Alter says who gets a mask is also important. You should avoid putting masks on certain people.

“I would not put a mask on [anyone] under the age of 2. I would not put a mask on anybody, regardless of age if they have a lot of difficulty breathing. I would not put a mask on someone who, on their own cannot take it off; for example a handicapped individual,” said Dr. Alter.

It is also important to note, according to Dr. Alter that using a face mask is not a substitute social distancing or otherwise safe practices.

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