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Could Masks Be Helpful AND Harmful to Our Kids?

I’m still sad every single time I see a child wearing a mask.

My kids are wearing masks daily for school in person, but this is not the way we were created to be.

I tell my kids often:

This is temporary. 

It will end.

We’re only doing this for a little while to respect others.

I don’t want masking to be normalized.

I don’t want people to get used to it, to be boiled like a frog by those in power who miiiiiiight just be trying to figure out exactly how much control they can have over a people.

To them, I say: Not. This. Much.

woman and child in masks

Even though it’s probably terrible for my stress levels, I have to keep my guard up and refuse to get used to seeing people with their faces covered.

And I’ll keep saying it for everyone to hear:

This is temporary.

If it starts feeling not-so-temporary, put your guard back up.

Something is amiss.

I’ve written for five posts now about masks, and I’ve struck a balance that many on social media weren’t happy about. It seems that masks must either be good or evil, polarized.

(That’s a sign of a problem, of course.)

I know masks are dangerous for our kids, but I’m still going to help busy, exhausted, confused mamas and papas out there mitigate the risks.

We’ve discussed how kids should handle and put on their masks when they’re required.

We’ve talked about the importance of mask breaks, and where to put that thing when you get to take it off.

Becca took a turn and shared how important it is to consider the environment when choosing a mask, and how that even typically also saves your budget.

Then I shared some laundry hacks to make sure these things are clean when they go over our precious children’s mouths and noses.

And I dipped my toe into the controversial realm with the last post, discussing some of the risks of wearing a mask that you CAN mitigate, partially or completely, with the right instruction.

Today I’m putting both feet into the deep end.

It’s time to cover the true dangers of wearing something over your face for hours at a time, particularly without training.

Other than taking your mask off, these are not risks you can reduce or eliminate.

Do I sound biased? 

Good.

boy in a face mask

This isn’t a media source written by a trained journalist. I’m going to do my best to share, in a balanced way, the research I’ve done that lights my fire and makes me continue to say:

This is temporary. 

It will end. 

This is not good for humans. 

Folks can throw studies at one another in this politically charged debacle all day long, but the truth is this:

We are all part of the first society-wide experiment in obstructing free-breathing in over 100 years.

We don’t yet know what we don’t know.

But I firmly believe we need to at least understand potential risks so we can make informed decisions.

My goal in this post is to give you an overview of the dangers of masks, both short and long-term, in brief bits, and then share a plethora of resources if you’d like to learn more.

Related: Striking a balance with masks

Summary: Major Dangers of Masks

Although you can take some steps to mitigate certain mask dangers, like poor posture, dehydration, mouth breathing, and cavities, and controlling your breathing to reduce anxiety, you can’t change the fact that there’s something on your face.

Here’s MY list of both research-backed, expert-shared, and anecdotal mask dangers:

  • Migraines, nausea, fatigue, fainting/passing out, heart attacks (all caused by decreased oxygen levels)
  • Greater risk of serious (or mild) fungal and bacterial infections (caused by recycled air carrying bacteria, moist environment on your face)
  • Long-term: Inhaling toxic fibers & carcinogenic compounds in surgical masks may cause chronic and fatal disease
  • Mental health: stress caused by hidden faces and more
  • Skin breakouts
  • Sore throat, congestion
  • Dry eye/eye infections

Edited February, 2020: I must admit that I haven’t heard as many of these coming to fruition as rampantly as I expected. It’s possible that the media isn’t covering vehicle accidents potentially related to the driver wearing a mask or kids passing out in school or epidemic bacterial infections. It’s also possible that some of these potential side effects are exaggerated — or hidden so far. The mental health devastation of the pandemic in general is clear and problematic, however, and I still believe that people ought to educated, informed, and use their own common sense to evaluate sources. Censorship has no place in a free society. 

My 94-year-old grandmother is in assisted living, and when we visited — outside, with masks — I couldn’t help but notice that the nurse who helped her get around reminded her and other residents to pull their masks up over their noses.

I know the elderly are at great risk with this virus (and any flu season, really), and we lost my grandfather to pneumonia just a few years ago.

It’s no surprise that the staff worries.

But many of them also have COPD and other risk factors that would likely exempt them from wearing masks if they were to take a workplace fit test, for example.

man wearing mask

And I cringed over and over when my grandma would grab her mask by the middle to put it on or when a nurse would hand a mask to her…not always using “ear loops only” as I teach my kids.

I asked my grandma if the nurses ever trained residents in how to wear a mask safely, like what part to touch and where to hang them after taking them off.

Not once.

How to Wear a Face Mask Correctly with Mask C.O.D.E.

Use this memory tool to teach kids (and adults!) how to wear a mask safely and correctly.

Mask Wearing Safety C.O.D.E Don't bring germs to your face

Would you like a printable version of the Mask C.O.D.E. to post as a reminder in your home, business, classroom or church along with hacks to keep the masks clean and more?

Read all the safe mask wearing posts:

Now, we’re trusting a 94-year-old’s memory here, and she’ll be the first to grin and tell you she had a great breakfast, but don’t ask her what it was.

But it won’t be the first place in our state to mandate masks, remind people to put them over their noses, but give zero other training beyond checking that particular box.

It’s like handing the car keys to a 14-year-old without a license at worst and giving a person vehicle ownership without a manual at best.

That person will drive a car into the ground without maintenance and cause costly repairs.

I firmly believe that this is what we’re doing, wearing masks without proper education.

Risk: Face Masks Decrease Oxygen Levels

There’s been plenty of discussion in 2020 about whether masks actually cause a re-breathing of carbon dioxide and a decrease in blood oxygen levels.

I’ve heard arguments among medical doctors who are actually taking their own oxygen levels and those of patients with and without masks.

Some say no change.

Some say a marked decrease within 4 minutes.

Some claim to see a decrease after a half-hour walk, to which the others say, “You’re not supposed to exercise with a mask on.”

(Ahem, tell that to the powers-that-be in Michigan, because they’re definitely mandating masks for athletes.) 

Research studies DO tell us that N95 masks, the kind that protects the wearer and isn’t allowed in airports in some places, definitely reduce oxygen intake.1

child putting a mask on

In fact, a study on pregnant healthcare workers concluded that because pregnancy already brings with it a 50% increase in blood volume and a corresponding need for additional oxygen, pregnant women in particular absolutely should not be wearing masks.2

A 2008 study on surgical masks found a decrease in oxygen saturation in surgeons, but the conclusion admits that the surgeon’s stress at the beginning of a procedure could be a confounding factor.3

The American Lung Association says “absolutely not” to the question of whether masks lower oxygen intake.4

Who to believe?

I took the time to listen to an hour-long interview with two former OSHA employees who have spent decades fitting and testing masks in the workplace, keeping people safe.

In this now-censored video (you can still see it here in its entirety), Tammy Clark and Kristen Meghan shared some tidbits such as:

  • Surgical rooms have extra oxygen pumped in during long procedures to keep the healthcare staff’s oxygen at safe levels.
  • “No average citizen is being trained on how to wear a mask!”
  • Some physicians are making YouTube trainings on “how” to wear a mask, but that’s not actually their expertise. It’s hers. She thinks folks should stay in their lane – mask experts teaching safe mask use, doctors diagnosing and healing patients.
  • Both think that as people are driving wearing masks, we’re going to see more accidents because they’re getting light-headed. I’ve been curiously surprised to have not heard about this problem in the media…yet…but then again…the media?

Here’s the bottom line: IF you believe the experts and the research that masks decrease oxygen, here’s what might happen because of that:

  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting/passing out
  • Heart attacks (particularly in those who are already susceptible, such as people with COPD)

I asked among my personal Facebook friends if anyone wanted to share anecdotal stories of problems masks have caused them, and multiple mentioned headaches and migraines, including someone who knows multiple kids getting headaches every day they’re in school.

woman pressing temples

Rachel M. shared that she feels dizzy, nauseated, and has severe TMJ pain and migraines that will last for days after wearing a mask. Her son had an injury last summer which resulted in a brain injury. She pursued a medical exemption so he did not regress in any progress they have been making with therapies and treatment. Masking him would inhibit full oxygen required for his healing brain and result in decreased learning, decreased focus, and an increase in behavior issues.

Luckily, he has not received any negative treatment from students or staff.

One colleague had to pick up her daughter from school with a stomachache complaint, and within 20 minutes without the mask on, she felt fine again.

She’s also a substitute teacher and has “seen masks as hair ties, masks as blindfolds, masks being tugged in and touched constantly, masks that are dripping wet after PE from sweat/drool… who knows what… then they touch that germ infestation and touch everything. I had more kids ask for a mask break in PE because their throat hurt…”

On the other hand, a teacher friend has no problem with mask-wearing at all, even though he has had asthma all his life.

A few moms shared that their kids are having no problems or complaints at all. I tend to hear that the younger kids seem to be less bothered by the masks.

I know that’s true with our own family — 6-year-old Gabe doesn’t mind his mask at all. Mommy has some concerns about long-term effects and is watching closely, though!

One related fact from the 1919 flu pandemic has to do with heart disease — an increased prevalence in infants born in 1919!!5

Can this risk be mitigated?

I wish I knew.

It’s definitely worth paying attention to your breathing and focusing on the exhale, as we discussed in the previous post, to maximize the oxygen you do have access to.

If proper breathing through the nose, with proper pacing, can mitigate the anxiety symptoms, perhaps headaches can be partially avoided too.

I’m still going to worry every time I see a bus full of children rolling by with the driver fully masked, however!

Masks Create a Warm, Moist Environment That’s Great for Fungi and Bacteria to Thrive

There’s a really good reason to wash your masks daily, and it’s not just because the outside could be peppered with a certain virus.

Any warm, moist environment is wonderful for bacterial and fungal growth, the very last things we want right on our faces.

In my own state of Michigan, strep throat hit one school hard “despite COVID-19 protocols” including masking.6

kids wearing masks

Strep is a bacterial infection, and bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, such as the inside of a mask.7

I really appreciated Dr. Jim Meehan sharing during a press conference: “We have not done a fair risk analysis for the general population.”

He is seeing facial rashes, fungal, and bacterial infections increasing. All over the world, bacterial pneumonia may be anecdotally on the rise; he thinks it’s because of people re-wearing masks.8

Many experts also mention that recycling one’s own air is generally something we try to avoid and may be a causal factor in these issues.

Skin infections from lack of circulation and re-infecting oneself are also a big risk, as we learned this summer when one of my kids had impetigo that went crazy on his face after extended mask-wearing. Fungal infections carry an increased risk as well.

Surely this won’t happen to everyone. My friend Wendy shared: “My friends from Asia grew up wearing them whenever they felt sick as a courtesy to others and think it’s weird that we make such a big deal about having to wear them to get through the pandemic.”

Is wearing a mask while sick different than wearing one every single day for months (or even years, God forbid)?

A 2018 study showed increased bacterial contamination on the outside of surgical masks in the operating room.9 Interestingly, the source of the bacteria was the surgeon’s own body, even though they’re fully covered in PPE.

Researchers strongly recommend new masks after two hours because of this — and we’re sending our kids to school in the same mask all day and no other PPE?

A 2015 study was the only randomized controlled trial of cloth masks before the 2020 pandemic, and the authors cautioned against healthcare workers relying on cloth masks since the study found that cloth mask wearers had a higher rate of infection than the control group.10

Ultimately, more research is needed, and not with hamsters.11

Time will tell, and the numbers will become available eventually…especially since real-life trials seem to be taking place in schools across the US.

Mask Mouth and Mascne are Real Issues

We talked last time about “mask mouth,” the phenomenon many dentists are reporting with an increase in cavities.

It’s thought that this is caused by mouth breathing, although it’s possible that the recycled air and altered oral microbiome simply from the warm, moist mask environment could be a contributor.12

Many friends shared that they’re getting skin rashes or actual acne on their faces as a reaction to the masks.

One mom said she noticed increased acne on her teen and many of her friends who never had issues with it previously, and it’s basically a mask line with clear skin around it.

I refuse to use surgical masks on my family for this reason (and the next issue), and we opt for cloth and organic when possible. We haven’t seen acne issues.

Looking for reusable masks? Check out these environmentally friendly options: cotton/linen blend masks, organic cotton masks, hand-sewn cotton masks.

These child-sized organic masks from Etsy are what we bought for some of the kids, and Gabe loves the fit.

What are we Inhaling From Those Masks?

Remember that Duke study on gaiters that made viral headlines in August 2020?

The media grabbed a few lines from the study and started saying that neck gaiters were possibly worse protection from coronaviruses than not wearing any face covering at all.

“Gaitergate” headlines about two weeks later pulled back on that, saying the study wasn’t intended to show mask efficacy without question.

Some researchers even theorized that the higher number of particles seen through the gaiter may have been because of “fibers shedding from the fabric.”13

Most gaiters are made of polyester, i.e. PLASTIC, which is never intended to go into the lungs. If particle fibers were shed in an outward direction, of course, they’re going somewhere on the inhale as well.

I’m grateful that the polyester fabric gaiters my elementary kids were given by their school are counted as their least favorite, least comfortable masks.

We choose cotton and cross our fingers. It’s all one big experiment with our lungs, folks.

And how about surgical masks?

The Internet will tell you they’re made with PTFE, i.e. Teflon. However, surgical masks are typically made with non-woven polypropylene.14

Polypropylene is made from hydrocarbon (non-renewable) fuels and is completely non-absorbent. Liquid goes right through.

It’s also susceptible to UV damage, a fact that will come to mind every time I see a surgical mask hanging on a rearview mirror in someone’s car.

child touching face mask

Polypropylene takes a long time to break down and creates a significant amount of toxic waste in its production, making it a significant environmental hazard (as Becca already discussed).15

I wasn’t able to find information about whether fibers or particles from surgical masks could be inhaled and what the health risks of those would be, but my common sense tells me I don’t want plastic in my lungs.

We stopped using plastic straws to save the turtles, and now we’re putting the same material on our faces every day (and disposing of those masks).

They just have to go!

Know Anyone with a Chronic Sore Throat or New Congestion?

Sore throat and congestion are definitely the most commonly mentioned mask side effects.

Even at the doctor’s office in early June, a practitioner there told me that they were seeing quite a number of patients coming in with new congestion. When questioned, many of them realized that the congestion went away on the weekends, when they weren’t wearing masks in the workplace.

Here are just a few of the anecdotes I collected:

  • Sunshine D. said: “I wear one at work 10-12 hours a day. I’ve had a sore throat now for about 5 months. Headaches quite often as well. My boys have acne which they’ve never had before. [The sore throat is] almost non-existent on my days off and goes right back to sore…I’ve been tested and [doctors can’t find anything.]”
  • Lynn I. has noticed sore throats and postnasal drip, and another mom preferred to remain anonymous but also sees headaches, sore throat, an increase in allergy symptoms, and panic attacks.
  • Sona Lesmeister, Stress Coach Sona, shared that her son gets a sore throat from wearing it in school on a daily basis.
  • Crystal Cummings shared that she’s quite claustrophobic, “so after about 20 min I definitely have a spike in anxiety.” She also noticed a sore throat and a runny nose.

On the other hand, not everyone is noticing this:

  • One retiree who used to work in a hospital said it’s never been a problem for her to wear a mask, and she actually thinks it may filter the pollen a bit because her allergies seem less severe this year.
  • Mandi E. shared this: “My sister is a hairdresser and has some bronchial issues. She told me that for the first hour or so of the day she’s really uncomfortable wearing her mask—it feels like it’s hard to breathe and she really dislikes it. But interestingly, by the time her second or third client comes in, she starts to feel better and by the end of the day, she doesn’t notice it. She hasn’t had any adverse health effects from wearing it.”

In our family, our littlest did get congested right away after wearing masks regularly.

woman blowing nose

Can this one be mitigated?

There are probably numerous causes for both symptoms, but I do have a few ideas.

First, especially if you have dust allergies, be sure to shake out a clean mask if it’s been hanging to dry. If you ever dust black furniture and look at it in dismay 6 hours later, you know how quickly dust can collect!

We regularly use both Beekeeper’s Naturals propolis spray to soothe the throat and Biocidin Throat Spray to reduce bacteria and viruses. ‘Tis the season!

Your Mask Can Infect Your Eyes

And finally, because masks send an unnatural flow of air upward at your eyes, people are experiencing “mask-associated dry eye,” an irritating condition.

This exacerbates the risk that you’ll get a viral or bacterial infection because of your mask since people tend to rub their eyes more when they’re dry.16

(Wash those hands, folks!)

One of my personal contacts shared an anecdote with much frustration that parallels this risk:

A teacher who preferred to remain anonymous shared that she’s experienced “headache, dry throat, dry lips, dry eyes, and excessive burping, plus heart palpitations when trying to sing with a mask on in church.”

 

She’s bothered by the fact that even outside on recess, very young children aren’t allowed mask breaks. She circled back a few days after I asked the initial question to share: “Add an eye infection/irritation to the unfortunate side effects of mask wearing. My eye was entirely bloodshot and irritated this week. Also, my lips have never been as sore as they are now. They are dry and feel like they are on fire from the mask.”

Dangers of Masks Increase While Exercising

I’m guessing you’ve felt this personally while climbing stairs with a mask on, even if you haven’t truly exercised with one.

It really impacts how well you can breathe!

I really appreciate the wisdom of mask experts and former OSHA employees Tammy Clark and Kristen Meghan, and you can see more about the reasons behind this risk here:

Although he wasn’t even exercising, just trying to heal from a Crohn’s Disease flare, Joel Sprechman, founder of One Great Gut: Thriving with IBD Crohn’s Colitis talked about expending extra energy.

“With a mask on not only do I feel my stress and anxiety levels raise, but also feel my heart beat faster causing me to have to be even more mindful of my nervous system. It causes me to unnecessarily expend extra energy when I need to speak to others so I speak loud and clearly enough so they hear me.”

There’s So, So Much to Say About Masks…

I set out to quickly lay out some general risks of universal masking, and here we are over 5,000 words.

Even so, I wasn’t able to create the most comprehensive source about mask risks out there.

Luckily, my colleague Shawn Stevenson has already done that:

Please visit his resources at The Model Health Show: Mask Facts, and for my visual/auditory learners out there, his video is incredible.

2 Questions That Matter About Universal Masking for COVID-19

It’s clear to me that there ARE risks to face masks, perhaps significant (and we don’t even understand the potential long-term risks) to wearing masks on a daily basis without training or safety testing.

Do the risks outweigh the benefits? 

I have two massive questions about that: Efficacy vs. Danger of this virus?

1. Are Masks Effective to Reduce the Spread of a Virus?

Research is all over on this one.

A colleague sent me a study over “proving” that masks work.17

However, this study had a very small number of coronavirus participants, so it does need to be taken with a grain of salt. All participants tested positive for a virus (coronavirus, rhinovirus, OR influenza).

Researchers tested the number of viral particles in respiratory droplets and aerosols (i.e. the air) for 30 minutes. Half wore masks and half did not.

woman coughing into a mask

The surgical mask did reduce viral particles in both droplets and aerosols for coronavirus. However, I also notice the following:

  • Of coronavirus participants who did not cough during the 30-minute time period, the virus was not detected at all, either in droplets or the air.
  • Looking at figure 1, the aerosolized particles from a coronavirus are almost undetectable, farrrrr less than the other two viruses.
  • The researchers stated: “We also demonstrated the efficacy of surgical masks to reduce coronavirus detection and viral copies in large respiratory droplets and in aerosols. This has important implications for control of COVID-19, suggesting that surgical face masks could be used by ill people to reduce onward transmission.” And: “Among the samples collected without a face mask, we found that the majority of participants with coronavirus infection did not shed detectable virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols…For those who did shed virus in respiratory droplets and aerosols, viral load in both tended to be low.”

A 2009 study also suggests that face masks may be helpful, but again, the same size is dreadfully small.18

Two takeaways for me:

  1. If coronaviruses aren’t evident without coughing, would an asymptomatic (i.e. not coughing) person transmit this disease?
  2. These researchers recommend masks for ill people, not healthy, and point out that many with coronavirus didn’t even shed the virus without a mask. Perhaps the risks are lower than we think!

A WHO-funded systematic review of available research in June 2020 suggested that 6-foot distancing and masks may help reduce transmission, with low certainty on the face mask recommendation.19

Most of the mask studies were on mask use in households with already confirmed viral cases.

The scientists conclude that the optimum role of masks needs risk assessment and contextual considerations.

More research shows that it’s possible that masking to reduce the amount of virus we’re exposed to could actually help herd immunity and decrease deaths.20

That article ends by saying that further studies are needed “comparing the rate of asymptomatic infection in areas with and areas without universal masking.”

Here’s some data to consider on that question:

The figure about halfway down this article at the Council on Foreign Relations shows no correlation between higher mask use in countries and lower infection rates.

If masks really worked, we’d expect to see all the red dots (where masks are required) to be well below the halfway mark on the vertical axis (low cases per million people). Yet 4 red dots float well above the 5,000 case level.

Blue dots, for countries where masks aren’t required, would be more likely to be higher on the vertical axis, and yet Norway and one other have very low mask use and very low case numbers. There simply is no pattern.

A couple of studies suggest that COVID-19 likely is not transmitted via airborne aerosols,21, 22 or on the other hand, other studies show it might be.23

If airborne aerosols are carriers, masks won’t really help because the air we breathe simply goes around the mask. Masks are only supposed to be effective for droplet transmission.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine says, “Universal masking alone is not a panacea…Focusing on universal masking alone may, paradoxically, lead to more transmission of Covid-19 if it diverts attention from implementing more fundamental infection-control measures.”24

The authors also point out that mask wearers are more likely to touch their faces in reality, potentially bringing more problems upon themselves, especially if they’re not vigilant about handwashing.

If you watch the video(s) from the lovely Irish researcher in my other resources below, you’ll learn about Gumpert’s curve. No matter what countries have or haven’t done to protect their citizens from COVID-19, each countries cases form a Gumpert’s curve, the natural flow of a virus.

They all get lower, no matter what.

It’s even possible that the virus is becoming less vicious and could die out.25

We know that viruses mutate extremely quickly and we already have at least two strains of COVID-19, one more severe than the other.26

boy wearing a mask

Which brings us to the next question that matters in all this:

2. Is this particular virus dangerous enough to change our entire society?

In early October, three epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford came together to release the Great Barrington Declaration.

It states in part:

“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

 

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

From The Great Barrington Declaration

Since then nearly 12,000 verified medical and public health scientists and over 33,000 medical practitioners have signed the declaration.

Did you see this on the news in October?

I didn’t.

Hmmmm…

But I’m happy to share it with you.

I’m personally in full agreement that we need to allow the least vulnerable to live normal lives, potentially get infected, and build up herd immunity.

Joseph Audie, a professor of chemistry with a PhD in biophysics and other degrees in biomedical engineering and bioengineering, says it this way:

“The absolute and relative ‘flu-like’ risk of death from a SARS-CoV-2 infection is far too low to rigorously justify governments imposing major disruptions to normal life, let alone the massive and indiscriminate ‘lockdown’ disruptions people have been forced to submit to and endure.”27

Bottom Line on the Dangers of Masks: What Choice Do YOU Want?

In the end, the bottom line isn’t even about those few questions remaining.

The bottom line isn’t just about keeping up with the research.

The real bottom line is that every day we all take educated risks.

We ride in vehicles.

We walk up and down stairs.

Most of us eat food we know isn’t good for us.

We let restaurants cook for us, in spite of the chance of food poisoning.

We send our kids to school, in spite of the fact that there are always germs flying around.

The point of an educated risk is education.

It’s my job and my passion to make sure that you know at least a little bit about what’s on both sides of this decision.

Will the research change? Absolutely.

But making our own decisions instead of letting others make them for us means that we can change our minds at any time.

girl wearing face mask

I know the risks of masks.

I understand that this virus and other illnesses are also a risk.

And I make my own choices.

I don’t like it when other people make them for me.

So I continue to write. I continue to research, and I continue to share.

May we all retain the freedom to do the same.

If this article was helpful to you, please share it with friends!

Helpful Resources to Dig in Further

  • This Irish researcher is fantastic to listen to and very clear. This is a fantastic video about the natural curve of seasonal viruses and how COVID-19 follows that exactly, regardless of what humans do to stop it. The theory that the mild flu season of 2019 actually caused COVID to be more severe because there were more elderly and compromised people who didn’t pass away during 2019 and were basically “dry tinder”, scientists call them, as Sars-CoV-2 hit in early 2020.
    • Others from the same expert: here and here
  • Why Quarantine has us More Unhealthy Than Ever from The Model Health Show
  • Why Was America Hit So Hard by COVID-19? from The Model Health Show (Hint: 125 million Americans have type II diabetes, a reversible disease…)
  • D.G. Rancourt, an expert in multiple fields that apply to the pandemic, thinks all-cause mortality is actually up during the pandemic.
  • Masks causing harm to healthy people (link removed)
  • Great Barrington Declaration (thousands of doctors and scientists say we should get back to normal living except for the elderly)

Footnotes

  1. Bharatendu, C., Ong, J., Goh, Y., Tan, B., Chan, A., Tang, J., et. al. (2020). Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) restores the N95 face mask induced cerebral hemodynamic alterations among Healthcare Workers during COVID-19 Outbreak. Journal of the neurological sciences, 417, 117078. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2020.117078
  2. Tong, P. S., Kale, A. S., Ng, K., Loke, A. P., Choolani, M. A., Lim, C. L., et. al. (2015). Respiratory consequences of N95-type Mask usage in pregnant healthcare workers-a controlled clinical study. Antimicrobial resistance and infection control, 4, 48. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-015-0086-z
  3. Beder, A., Büyükkoçak, U., Sabuncuoğlu, H., Keskil, Z. A., & Keskil, S. (2008). Preliminary report on surgical mask induced deoxygenation during major surgery. Neurocirugia (Asturias, Spain), 19(2), 121–126. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1130-1473(08)70235-5
  4. Hill, D. (2020, June 18). From the Frontlines: The Truth About Masks and COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/blog/covid-masks
  5. Borovoy, B., Huber, C. & Crisler, M. (n.d.). Masks, false safety and real dangers, Part 2:
    Microbial challenges from masks. [PDF File]. Retrieved from https://pdmj.org/Mask_Risks_Part2.pdf
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  20. Gandhi, M. & Rutherford, G. (2020, October 29) Facial Masking for Covid-19 — Potential for “Variolation” as We Await a Vaccine. N Engl J Med, 383(101). Retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2026913
  21. Conly, J., Seto, W. H., Pittet, D., Holmes, A., Chu, M., Hunter, P. R., & WHO Infection Prevention and Control Research and Development Expert Group for COVID-19 (2020). Use of medical face masks versus particulate respirators as a component of personal protective equipment for health care workers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Antimicrobial resistance and infection control, 9(1), 126. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-020-00779-6
  22. Sommerstein, R., Fux, C. A., Vuichard-Gysin, D., Abbas, M., Marschall, J., Balmelli, C., Troillet, N., Harbarth, S., Schlegel, M., Widmer, A., & Swissnoso (2020). Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosols, the rational use of masks, and protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19. Antimicrobial resistance and infection control, 9(1), 100. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-020-00763-0
  23. Islam, M. S., Rahman, K. M., Sun, Y., Qureshi, M. O., Abdi, I., Chughtai, A. A., & Seale, H. (2020). Current knowledge of COVID-19 and infection prevention and control strategies in healthcare settings: A global analysis. Infection control and hospital epidemiology, 41(10), 1196–1206. https://doi.org/10.1017/ice.2020.237
  24. Klompas, M., Morris, C., Sinclair, J., Pearson, M. & Shenoy, E. Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era. N Engl J Med, 382(e63). Retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372
  25. https://www.hospimedica.com/covid-19/articles/294783176/coronavirus-mutating-to-become-less-vicious-and-could-die-out-without-vaccine-claims-expert.html
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  27. Rancourt, D. & Audie, J. (2020). Review of calculated SARS-CoV-2 infection fatality rates: Good CDC science versus dubious CDC science, the actual risk that does not justify the “cure.” 10.13140/RG.2.2.18432.46080.

Additional Sources

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  • Parker-Pope, T. (2020, August 17). Save the Gaiters! Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/17/well/live/coronavirus-gaiters-masks.html
  • Fischer, E., Fischer, M., Grass, D., Henrion, I., Warren, W. & Westman, E. (2020, September 2).
    Low-cost measurement of face mask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech. Science Advances,
    EABD3083. Retrieved from https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabd3083
  • Krishna, R. (2020, October 26). Teflon in masks does not pose a health risk, unless you get it extremely hot. Retrieved from https://fullfact.org/health/teflon-masks-symptoms/
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  • Xiao, J., Shiu, E., et al. (2020, May). Nonpharmaceutical measures for pandemic influenza in non-healthcare settings – personal protective and environmental measures. Centers for Disease Control, 26(5). https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article
  • Brainard, J., Jones, N., et al. (2020, Apr 1). Facemasks and similar barriers to prevent respiratory illness such as COVID19: A rapid systematic review. [PDF File]. MedRxiv. Retrieved from https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.01.20049528v1.full.pdf
  • Radonovich, L.,  Simberkoff, M., et al. (2019, September 3). N95 respirators vs medical masks for preventing influenza among health care personnel: a randomized clinic trial. JAMA. 322(9): 824-833. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2749214
  • Smith, J., MacDougall, C. (2016, May 17). CMAJ. 188(8); 567-574. Retrieved from https://www.cmaj.ca/content/188/8/567
  • Jacobs, J.,  Ohde, S., et al. (2009, June). Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Infect Control. 37(5): 417-419. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19216002/
  • Viola, M., Peterson, B., et al. Face coverings, aerosol dispersion and mitigation of virus transmission risk. https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.10720, Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/2005/2005.10720.pdf
  • Jung, H., Kim, J., et al. (2013, June). Comparison of filtration efficiency and pressure drop in anti-yellow sand masks, quarantine masks, medical masks, general masks, and handkerchiefs. Aerosol Air Qual Res, 14, 991-1002. Retrieved from https://aaqr.org/articles/aaqr-13-06-oa-0201.pdf
  • Walker, M. (2020, May 20). Study casts doubt on N95 masks for the public. MedPage Today. Retrieved from https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/publichealth/86601
  • Tunevall, T. (1991, May). Postoperative wound infections and surgical face masks: A controlled study. World J Surg, 15, 383-387. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01658736
  • Mitchell, N. & Hunt, S. (1991, July). Surgical face masks in modern operating rooms – a costly and unnecessary ritual? J Hosp Infection. 18(3), 239-242. Retrieved from https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/0195-6701(91)90148-2/pdf
  • Brosseau, L. & Sietsema, M. (2020, April 1). Commentary: Masks for all for Covid-19 not based on sound data. U Minn Ctr Inf Dis Res Pol. Retrieved from https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/commentary-masks-all-covid-19-not-based-sound-data
  • Klompas, M., Morris, C. et al. Universal masking in hospitals in the Covid-19 era. N Eng J Med. 2020; 382 e63. Retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372
  • Chandrasekaran, B. & Fernandes, S. (2020, June 22). Exercise with facemask; are we handling a devil’s sword – a physiological hypothesis. Med Hypothese, 144(110002). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32590322/

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

51 thoughts on “Could Masks Be Helpful AND Harmful to Our Kids?”

  1. I happened upon this Article while looking for something else mask related I’m chasing….and after reading through the comments, felt like replying. #1. Who I am, relevant to this subject matter: I am on a research team headed by an Industrial Hygienist, who will shortly be conducing the worlds first Microbial Study of public used masks. Yeah…amazingly it hasn’t occurred to any doctors or scientists yet to do such a thing. They are all pretty convinced that once your droplets hit the mask, the virus just disappears into an alternate dimension. I have scoured over every mask study listed on the CDC. Every.Single.One. ..and some 100 plus referenced studies beyond that. My first observation here is that this article is one of the BEST compilations of its kind in existence. A heap of praise goes to its author. It is also extremely accurate. In addition, I can tell you that the “mask science” doesn’t say what people think it says. I think the public at large would be baffled at how so many mask experiments don’t conclusively support the conclusions their authors make. This mask thing is far more political than it is scientific. Lastly, 2021 is going to be an interesting year of pushback. You will see the CDC be forced to defend the flaws, sloppiness,incompleteness, and in some cases fraud in the studies they are using to dictate public policy. Get your popcorn ready 🙂

    1. I’m honored you stopped by, Doran! Do put me on your list to share the study as soon as it’s finished!

      Bring on the popcorn – I have small hopes that enough people will push back with the narrative of fear that is out there, but if we can bring some truth to light, that would be wonderful.

      Thanks for tackling the science,
      Katie

  2. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    Katie, this is a great time for everyone to reread your series on whooping cough and think about the very important issues of coping with a serious illness, accountability, and vaccine decision-making that you raised there. I just reread it myself. One of the reasons it’s so helpful is that you wrote it after the kids had recovered so that you had a clearer perspective on the whole thing and especially on the shame you felt about your kids catching and spreading this “preventable” disease even though you (and people who caught it) actually had done some of the things to prevent it.

    We all need to be really aware of the risk of shame about catching COVID-19. This illness is super duper contagious, it’s everywhere right now, you get it by breathing which nobody can stop doing for long, and none of the precautions is 100% effective–so nobody should be ashamed of having caught it! Shame tends to motivate people to hide symptoms and keep up their usual routines without telling anyone, and that spreads the virus. I’m surprised how often people speak of it as if it were an STD or something that could be caught only in a scandalous way, instead of just by breathing while running responsible errands! We’ll get through this much faster and better if we can keep an attitude of, “I’m sorry you’re sick! Please stay home! What can I drop off for you?”

  3. Hi Katie,

    As a long time follower of yours I’m a little disheartened by this article.

    There are lots of things that bother me about this article but perhaps they’re best illustrated with a single example. In this article you point to a paper written by Fauci about the 1918 pandemic and how he said much of the death during that pandemic time came from bacterial pneumonia. You then wonder if this bacterial pneumonia may have been caused by the mask-wearing happening at that time.

    Did you read that paper? If you read it you know there is no mention of masks at all. He does mention bacterial pneumonia as a cause of death. That’s because it’s a well known fact that pneumonia is a complication (secondary infection) of flu and even some colds in the more susceptible. That’s what he says in his paper: since complications like pneumonia can cause as much illness as the original infection, if a pandemic comes along we’d better be prepared for those secondary infections (e.g. stockpile antibiotics).

    This is just one example of something in your article that is, if not harmful, then at least unhelpful and alarming. There are other examples in your article too.

    Please read a paper if you are going to reference it. Some people actually rely on you for information. They won’t check it out themselves. For this one, read the actual paper, read the conclusion. Then refer to what was actually in the paper, not what someone said was in it. Or what you think maybe might be interesting to speculate on.

    Looking at the bigger I highly recommend looking up past pandemics and the conspiracy theories associated with them. You’ll find the exact same thing we are seeing with this one: that the bug is engineered, that it was introduced by another country (on purpose) or a powerful group, that measures like mask wearing and distancing and lockdowns are only a form of control and/or are dangerous, that it isn’t actually as serious as we are being told and there’s a coverup. It’s sobering to see that when we face a challenge of this kind we tend to reach for the same types of explanations. Given that the last major pandemic was 100 years ago we can probably now ask: did those same theories pan out?

    Another thing I would recommend is visiting sites of people like Dr Elisa Song, a doctor I learned about through you (and someone it seems you respect.). Throughout the past months she has continued to inform us while empowering us, keeping us vigilant without unnecessarily alarming us. Ironically if you go to a recent article of hers on masks and scroll down the comments you’ll see a comment someone made about the evils of masks while citing the same Fauci paper you cited here. This person then goes on to say that in 1918 the unmasked were burying the masked (presumably the Fauci paper was meant to back this up? Again, it says nothing about masks).

    Hers is the type of informed reporting that allows us to make decisions rather than scaring us into action.

    1. Hi Desiree,
      I appreciate your comment, and you’re right, I don’t think I did look up the Fauci paper. I did trust a few other sources that quoted or cited his work. Unfair of me. I’ll consider removing that portion, as it’s not accurate.

      I’ve been studying all-cause death numbers on the CDC website lately, and I’m seeing nothing at all like the 1918 pandemic numbers. The life expectancy in those years actually dropped to 40!! Holy cow. Nothing like that is happening now.

      I do respect Dr. Song and all her work and count her as a friend, and I keep everything she writes in my mind as I collect information as well. I also do see a lot of fear in her pandemic Facebook group (private to paying members) though, and I just can’t enter into it. Dr. Song helped me with information on the first 2 posts in the series, on proper wearing and washing of masks.

      I’m glad to report that in the CDC numbers, deaths from respiratory disease really aren’t up this year over previous 5 years, so perhaps the pneumonia dynamic isn’t taking place with the coronavirus like it often does for the flu. Here’s hoping!

      Thank you again for your respectful comment, and I’ll be pondering the edit while I sleep,
      Katie

      1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

        Here are several things to consider about the 1918 pandemic death rate vs. the current pandemic:

        1. That virus was particularly severe for children and young adults. This one is particularly severe for older adults, especially the very elderly. That’s why we’re not seeing a big drop in life expectancy–another way to put it is that the mean age of death in 1918 was much younger than in 2020.

        2. We have MUCH better medical care now than then. One of the reasons the % of people diagnosed with COVID-19 who die has decreased from about 6% in March to 2% now is that doctors have developed some techniques for saving some lives. Some people are ignoring that when they say, “It’s not that lethal, and it’s getting less lethal with time,” as if that were just happening naturally! Let’s acknowledge the hard work of doctors and scientists in figuring out what does and doesn’t work, and implementing those methods so quickly. (Another factor in the decreased death rate is just a statistical artifact: Where testing is available to people without symptoms, a smaller proportion of people who test positive will have a case serious enough to kill them. I don’t think they had any testing for the 1918 flu; as far as I know, diagnosis was based on symptoms, so people who weren’t sick enough to see a doctor wouldn’t have been counted as diagnosed.)

        3. Just because things could be worse doesn’t mean they’re okay! Here’s a fact-check: About 220,000 more Americans died in the first ten months of 2020 than in the first ten months of 2019. The official count of COVID-19 deaths up to that point was about 214,000.

        Yesterday, we lost two Americans per minute to COVID-19. That’s a lot of people. Yes, it could be worse, but it is really bad.

      1. Hi Katie,

        I want to thank you for replying to my message and for taking it to heart—and for making that change in your article. These aren’t small things.

        I’ve taken up a lot of time already but there is something I need to ask. I have seen people who wear masks referred to as sheep and as lemmings. Now I see this reference to frogs being boiled. From what I can understand it sounds like people are concerned that it is some kind of slippery slope: that if we wear masks (and become accustomed to them) then that will lead to something else (that is bad). What I’m trying to understand here is why people are afraid that mask wearing will lead to anything else at all.

        I wear a mask as do my family. We will continue to until it’s not needed though we realize that could be a while. But wearing a mask doesn’t mean that I’m going to go out and vaccinate when a vaccine becomes available, or maybe ever. I haven’t vaccinated my family for anything yet so why would I start with coronavirus? (For the record no I am not antivax, but I do think it’s prudent to wait until small bodies are a little more developed before asking them to cope internally with multiple foreign materials at a time).

        Everything I’ve seen from you leads me to believe you you carefully consider your decisions and often revisit them. So I can’t imagine that you are concerned that wearing a mask will mean you are then somehow led into something else. But do other people really feel this disempowered?

        And if they do might we be able to remind people that wearing masks doesn’t have to be a gateway to anything else? It’s helping others out right now and (more recently it seems it may be helping us too). And when it’s not needed anymore then we can quit wearing them. I’m wondering if this might this change the conversation even a little bit.

        I know you’ve mentioned this in various forms throughout the years and had interviewees who gave this same message: part of coping or better—resilience—is how we view a situation and our real life options. It’s the same reason I sometimes tell my 7-year old son: remember this time because you will be telling your family about this unusual time when you grow up. I choose to do this instead of overly focusing on the inconveniences we’re experiencing though yes we do talk about those too.

        I’ve gone on and on already but I have a couple things I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention. One is a comment by another contributor who said (sorry, not this person’s exact words) if the pandemic were more serious then people would voluntarily wear masks. If you look to accounts of the 1918 pandemic like memoirs, you’ll hear of people literally falling over dead in front of others. It’s quite disturbing actually. Yet there was still refusal to wear masks. So it seems we can’t always count on people to assess the seriousness of a situation.

        And I’m sorry to seem as though I’m picking on this same commenter but this person also says that: Jesus talked to lepers and touched and blessed them. He didn’t mask himself or social distance.

        It’s all true. But there are many things Jesus did that we can’t. We can’t feed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves. We can’t cross the water without the aid of a boat or jet ski or dinghy. I could come up with more examples but I think you know what I’m trying to say. Jesus had powers—especially healing powers—that we don’t.

        Seeing comments like this last one in particular concern me but seeing comments like this go unaddressed concerns me more.

        These comments can evoke feelings like unfairness , outrage, or being put-upon. Quite honestly I even felt this myself after I read the comment. I was like, yes, Jesus didn’t wear a mask or distance and that was with LEPERS!

        But it’s also leaving out a lot of important differences. In this case between Jesus and—basically all of the rest of us.

        I don’t mean to overstep my bounds here but it feels a little scary to have to be the one bringing these missing pieces into the conversation when I’m simply another random commenter. I know it’s a lot of work to try to address every single one of our comments but perhaps when we get worked up about something and inadvertently miss out some critical information, you can maybe gently provide that so we are able to again see our real choices.

        1. Desiree- you make some wonderful points and express yourself very well. Thank you for speaking up.

          1. Lindsay Palazzolo

            P.S. My perfectly healthy 23-year-old cousin got covid-19. It knocked her on her back for weeks, and she had fainting spells for weeks afterward. For me, as a nonskinny asthmatic with 4 children, masks do not seem “dangerous” by comparison. Also, a large segment of my extended family are virus-deniers or minimizers, basically calling my cousin and aunt liars or over-reactors. For these reasons, I really have a hard time with posts that may be misused to fuel that sort of movement.

            1. Hi Lindsay,
              I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin! It is frightening to hear how terrible the virus can be for some. 🙁 I’m also appalled to hear of the family mistreating loved ones like that, and really, those who truly believe that there is no such thing as COVID-19 aren’t thinking critically or reading enough. I know they’re out there, and I do hope I’m not lumped into that bucket just because I’m asking questions and posting something negative about masks. Please keep in mind that I published 4 posts about proper use and care of masks first, to help people do this safely and not cause more harm to themselves and/or *more* transmission of even this particular virus because of all the touching of masks that is going on.

              I can see your point about my post being misused to fuel a movement built on hyperbole and untruths. I wish I could count on people to read all the words and understand my intent, but I know we live in a culture of skimmers, sadly. Luckily my post is pretty wordy and academic, so hopefully the less educated among us who are subscribing to the most wild conspiracy theories won’t read it. I can’t remove the whole post just because it *might* be misused. But I do understand your concern and feel your pain as one whose family is divided here. Devastating.

              The antidote to divisiveness is compassion, to “feel with” another, and I’m trying to do that every day while sifting through all the information out there. Sending hugs your way, properly socially distanced of course.
              Blessings, Katie

              1. Lindsay Palazzolo

                Hi Katie,

                I probably should have said first that I liked your “CODE” for proper mask wearing- helpful and succinct! That was messaging for the TL;DR crowd at its best! Also, thank you for your compassion; be comforted that [Cousin] is back to work now. But I’m still angry and sad about the whole thing with my family, and on a larger scale that many people really aren’t taking this seriously at all.

                I know you mean well, and no, I wouldn’t expect you to take down a whole post- it was an “I” message, and until now I’ve only ever commented on your posts to concur or encourage because I really don’t like conflict. You’re right that we live in a nation of skimmers. I, on the other hand, am more like you in that I eat data for breakfast and read Supreme Court opinions for fun. One reason I never ran a blog: rabbit hole writing! I would never stay on topic or end an article- if I ever stopped reading in order to start writing.

                Though I promised myself I wouldn’t spend my Christmas school break buried in Excel, I do keep an eye on P-values for excess mortality over a 5 year average, and I’m curious about what sites you like for that sort of thing. In the meantime, until finals, I’m mostly sticking to analyzing variances and such on sales- happier thoughts!

                Blessings to you and your family as well,

                Lindsay

        2. Hi Desiree,
          I appreciate your question, and I think it’s very valid. You and I are, unfortunately, in the minority as critical thinkers in America. I believe you can wear a mask and not go down a slippery slope of relinquishing your freedom, control over choices, and free thinking. But I’m afraid that many in America adapt and get used to following what others say, and I fear it *could* be a slippery slope of loss of freedom. With the censorship on social media and Google rampant and blatant, that raises a red flag for me. I’ve heard it said that the first freedom to be lost is freedom of speech, and it doesn’t usually stop there if those in power want more.

          I’m right with you on shots as well – I don’t see myself as anti, just cautious and skeptical. We again are in the minority, which is what worries me.

          My goal with this post and the last one are definitely to encourage people to remember that this is temporary, as you said: “to remind people that wearing masks doesn’t have to be a gateway to anything else? It’s helping others out right now and (more recently it seems it may be helping us too). And when it’s not needed anymore then we can quit wearing them.” We have to speak that message a bit more loudly because so few are sending out those reminders.

          I love what you tell your son! I hope you don’t mind if I borrow that. And very true, resilience is about feeling like you have choices and control — another goal of my posts, especially the first 4.

          You’re correct that I didn’t choose to disagree with the other commenter. I felt there was enough disagreement already, and I’d allow her her opinions. I have zero idea what Jesus would be doing if He were here in this pandemic, but I know He would preach love. Whether that’s wearing a mask or opening churches or shaking hands without fear, I’m seriously not sure. I do all 3. I’ll go reassess her comment to see if I feel it requires a response to be responsible as the author.

          re: counting on people to assess the seriousness of the situation, no, I don’t believe we can. I can only count on myself, and what I know is that YES, this virus is worse than the flu, and YES, there are some frightening long-term side effects for *some* people. I also know that the death rate is only very slightly higher this year than the past 5 years, nowhere near 1918. So we’re not experiencing the same level of pandemic.

          You’re not overstepping bounds; I see this as helpful discussion and I appreciate you being frank but kind.

          Thank you!
          Katie

          1. Hi Katie,

            Thank you for taking the time to respond in such detail. I should mention that the idea for reframing what we’re going through now as something to remember (vs. focusing on the inconveniences we’re experiencing) comes from an article about encouraging gratitude in kids from an online parenting newsletter called Parent Map out of the Seattle area. When I saw mention of reframing our current experience in this article it really hit home for me because my grandfather (my son’s namesake) lived through the 1918 pandemic when he was about the age my son is now (yes, I’m old to have such a young son) and he would talk about how the 1918 pandemic shaped him. For what it’s worth, he lived to a very vibrant 96.

            I have been thinking a lot about your article and all of our discussion and it sounds to me as though this article maybe didn’t land quite as you had intended. In this vein, something occurred to me. Full disclosure (as the saying goes these days) I’ll admit I felt a twinge of dread when I clicked on the title to this article because to me it did have a different tone than the other mask articles. So I was thinking that while I’m not sure how easy it is to change things like titles, this might this be one way to set up the article differently and expectations about it. The following are more for fodder (or laughs) than anything, but a couple that sprung to mind were:

            “Being Mindful about Masks: why we need to teach our kids proper wear and care while remembering why we’re doing this in the first place.”
            Or, “Masks: the good, the bad, the ugly (and the necessary).”

            I’m not suggesting you use these titles! But maybe a different title might set people up more in the way you intended. Of course changing the title may require adding in an extra paragraph or two, for example emphasizing how we need to remember that it is our choice, and that we are choosing this way to care for others, but I did want to float this option in case it’s useful (or possible).

            I do have to say that I’m so glad to hear from the commenter who mentioned close family who had actually had Covid 19. I find I hear so much from the ‘sides’ but it’s as though this has left little room for the voices of those who have seen this illness close up. So it was such a (positive) kick in the pants to hear from this commenter. I find myself theorizing about this illness and what’s working (or not) for me right now then I hear from people with lived experience it gets me back into the concrete and why I’m doing what I’m doing. There was another commenter early on who also mentioned knowing a 15 year old who had had it. I’d love to hear more from these people than we do now.

            The other voices that to me are mysteriously absent from much of the talk these days are those of healthcare workers, especially frontline workers. It seems we often talk *about* them (that they’re heroes) but there is little appetite to actually listen to them. More disturbingly, I’ve seen them dismissed as though the rest of us need to educate them as to what’s really going on. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

            That’s why I was so pleased to stumble upon this short article with video a few days ago from a frontline worker in Canada and wanted to share it, I hope that’s okay. The article does talk about how this woman’s TikTok post was a compassionate response to her feeling more and more demoralized by “internet trolls”—I hope that language doesn’t offend anyone and please know that I am not saying that that’s what is going on here. But to me, the way these young women (and there are men as well of course) have reframed the impossible situation they’re in where they’re dealing with people in all kinds of horrible health crises and then being attacked for it—they are truly preaching the love that you talked about.

            https://globalnews.ca/news/7489766/calgary-nurses-post-front-line-workers-alberta-covid-viral/

            In case I didn’t manage to do that properly then the title of the article is: “Calgary Nurse’s post defending front-line workers to ‘internet trolls’ goes viral” and it’s from globalnews.ca.

            I think I’ll bow out of the conversation from here on in. I don’t know how you manage so much content as I personally find writing in the public domain such a delicate procedure and almost too much responsibility. But I do thank you for listening and for your willingness to make the changes you have. I look forward to future articles!

            1. That was a lovely article, Desiree, thank you.

              I know all our frontline workers are doing their very best, and any inflation of numbers is all media and politicians. I won’t hesitate to question them, but no, not doctors and nurses.

              My cousin just got the virus for perhaps the second time, or possibly had a false positive this summer, and I was *appalled* that people are shaming others for contracting a super contagious disease. What kind of world do we live in?

              To share a story from one who’s actually had it, my cousin’s wife is trying to educate people that although it really isn’t seeming very severe for them, for their age group, for their kids’ age group, that’s the risk. If you don’t feel “that sick” you might be complacent and go out and infect someone elderly for whom the virus is going to be much worse.

              I honor her efforts and had to text hugs and prayers to her and apologize that somehow we live in a world where shaming is acceptable. Illness happens. Always has, always will, regardless of the measures we take to prevent or mitigate.

              A local teacher has had it rough as well, ending up in the hospital with pneumonia and still 3 weeks later, only able to teach half a day because her energy is so low. Ironically, zero cases among students in that school, but teachers who are trying so hard to be safe, not socialize, etc, keep getting it. (All the students and staff wear masks.)

              I’ll consider changing the title; I appreciate that feedback as always.

              Blessings, Katie

        3. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

          Thanks for your comments, Desiree. I agree that thinking about how we’ll tell people in the future about our hardships and bravery in this difficult time is one of the best approaches we can take. My son born in 2004 has long been interested in the events of September 11, 2001, and their long-term repercussions; sometime back around May, he asked me, “Was it like this?” and we talked about how the changes in everyday routine were different but the feeling of “This is a time of big crisis and sudden change” was similar. I told him how I grew up hearing people talk about where they were when they heard about the JFK assassination, and then when the Challenger exploded I suddenly understood how they felt about that. Of course the pandemic is different, being a longer-term thing rather than a single shocking event…but 9/11 was a single shocking event that led to heightened airport security forevermore, apparently.

          Here’s my take on coronavirus vaccination: By the time it is available to anyone in my immediate family, millions of people will have taken it. That will give us an opportunity to see what the side effects are like and how much protection it provides. If it’s looking risky, we won’t take it. But if we’re seeing that it works well, then my family will do our part to stop this virus from ravaging humanity. Even a vaccine that doesn’t work perfectly saves many lives compared to no vaccine at all. I understand the desire to be an informed consumer and not do things blindly, but because vaccines *in general* are safe and effective, I look at each one’s risks and benefits to make the decision. It’s likely that my partner, teenager, and I will be vaccinated but our 6-year-old will not until a specifically pediatric vaccine is developed or we’ve seen research demonstrating the safety of the vaccine in young children.

          1. I appreciate your cognizant assessment of the vaccine and the idea of waiting for the young kids until a peds version is tested.

            My dentist told me today that he’s been reading that it may be best just to get the virus, particularly now before it mutates any further, because your immune system will always have some bit of memory of its structure. I’m trying to get his source from him and will share it with you when I do. I’m not quite at the point where I want to intentionally seek it out…but I can’t say I haven’t considered it!

            I wish I saw the bravery you speak of in our world today, but I see too much divisiveness, apathy, and binging on Netflix while complaining about virtual school. I’m not quite sure we’ve hit the bravery nail on the head yet as a nation…

            1. Becca @ The Earthling’s Handbook

              Your dentist’s theory is a good example of the kind of rumor you shouldn’t spread until you’ve researched it.

              EVEN IF it’s true that surviving COVID-19 provides long-lasting protection against this coronavirus and future mutations (an idea that’s not supported by any of the research I’ve read so far), the trouble with getting sick right now is that hospitals are full and doctors are overwhelmed. A lot of people focus on the death rate, but less than half of the patients who require hospitalization will ultimately die. Both those who die and those who survive with hospital treatment require space, attention, and resources in our hospitals, typically for about a week per patient, and that’s really adding up to enormous demand on our health care system.

              So if you get sick now, there’s a chance you will not be able to get medical care necessary to save your life—and if you do, you may be in the way of someone else getting what they need.

              Stay home and stay safe. After the pandemic is over, we’ll ease back into normal social contact, and our immune systems will still “have some bit of memory” of all the germs we normally encounter.

              My partner compared your dentist’s idea to stepping out in front of a speeding car, just in case the next vehicle to come around the bend might be a truck. We’d rather keep walking along this side and wait for a safer time to cross the road!

  4. Temporary… maybe. It’s been months of “just until we flatten the curve!!” The precedent has been set. The frogs are being boiled.

    Here’s my take: if it truly was such a horribly bad deal, people wouldn’t really need to be forced to wear masks. They just would!

    And if it was as dangerous as they say: well, I want to see my family on Christmas before I hypothetically die. I want to see my children smile before I die. I want to sing hymns with my church.

    Let those who don’t want to, choose to stay home for themselves.

    Jesus talked to lepers. He touched them, he blessed them. He didn’t mask himself or social distance. He lived and ministered.

  5. As a nurse in a correctional facility, I’ve monitored the effects of mask wearing on staff and inmates. Your article is absolutely accurate! Appreciate your boldness and honesty in a world where both traits are underappreciated.

  6. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    Katie, where did you get the idea that mask mandates will go on for years after the pandemic abates? I haven’t seen this idea anywhere but here. I do know some people who are saying that they may *voluntarily* wear masks in the future when they feel they might be getting sick or are at high risk of exposure to germs or allergens, because this experience with masks has been positive for them.

    One thing missing from this article is recognition of the idea that wearing a mask protects other people from your germs. In fact, most research suggests that masks do that more effectively than they protect you from other people’s germs. COVID-19 is contagious for a couple days before symptoms. Although I agree that your grandmother’s nursing home should be teaching and demonstrating more careful mask use, the bigger risk to your grandmother is your visiting and breathing on her–every person who comes near her is another possible infection vector. So I’m glad you visited outdoors and were wearing your masks properly!

    It’s because masks protect others more than they protect ourselves, and because many Americans have refused to be unselfish voluntarily, that mask mandates have been necessary. The fact that this virus MOSTLY kills “the vulnerable” doesn’t take away our obligation to protect those who are more vulnerable than we are!

    My 15-year-old had impetigo near his mouth this summer, and it did not clear up after the first round of antibiotics. We agreed that this probably was because his masks rubbed against the area and because he was not washing them after every use; he changed that, and stayed home during the second round of antibiotics, and then he was fine. You could use this anecdote to argue that masks cause or aggravate impetigo, therefore masks are bad. But here’s what my family took from it:
    * We’d rather have impetigo than COVID-19. Impetigo is a minor, localized irritation, extremely unlikely to have serious consequences. We know a 15-year-old who had COVID-19, and he’s fine now, but he was super miserable for over 3 weeks and didn’t get back to normal stamina for about 3 months.
    * We should wash our masks frequently and thoroughly, especially when we’re having any problems.
    * Wearing a mask helps all of us remember not to touch our faces. My son found it hard to resist touching the impetigo when he was home, and I worried that he’d spread it to other parts of his body or other family members. When it was covered by a mask, he easily remembered to leave it alone!

    Since you live in a cold climate, Katie, I’m wondering how you handle the risks of wearing scarves or other winter gear over your nose and mouth. Do you forbid your children to do that? Do you wash scarves daily? Do you bring extra scarves on every outing so nobody ever wears one that’s damp or has touched the ground?

    Here are some of the reasons I continue to think masks help more than they hurt:

    Yesterday’s CDC report includes evidence that masks provide some protection to the wearer as well as others, and notes many recent research studies on COVID-19 in real-world conditions demonstrating 50% or more reduction in transmission.

    This article also cites some useful research, of which I think the most interesting is the comparison of Kansas counties that mandated masks to those that didn’t. It also notes that North Dakota (currently the worst outbreak) has the lowest rate of masking in the US–where masks aren’t mandated, people can wear them voluntarily, and ND is the state where the fewest people did that. Of the top 10 states for new infections in October, 8 have no mask mandate.

    Meta-analysis of 172 studies of coronavirus transmission (some about masks, some about other precautions) shows a protective effect of masks. “Low certainty” means, “Because data come from the complicated real world instead of a controlled experiment, it’s hard to be sure which things had how much effect or what other lurking variables may be involved.” But I’m not sure what they mean by “12–16-layer cotton masks”–that sounds like too many layers!!

    This natural experiment study found that states implementing mask mandates saw a steady decline in cases over the next 3 weeks. That’s a short time frame, not a controlled experiment, and complicated by concurrent changes in other infection-control procedures…but it’s worth a look.

    1. Hi Becca,
      Thanks for including those study links, which are helpful to begin to answer the first of the final two questions I post in the post.

      I’m not sure where you read that I believe “mask mandates will go on for years after the pandemic abates” – I searched this article for the word “year” and found only, “Is wearing a mask while sick different than wearing one every single day for months (or even years, God forbid)?” I never insinuated that masks would go beyond the pandemic – just a worry that the pandemic may go on for years.

      The Vox article is very intriguing. It’s definitely looking like more research is coming out showing a possible correlation between mask use and declining positive cases. More information for my question, and again, thank you.

      I’m still not sure the second question is black and white, and all the collateral damage worth it, but I appreciate your contribution to the post’s sourcing.

      I’d like to state again that my kids are wearing masks every day in school, and on the rare occasions that I’m in public, I wear one as well out of respect for others.

      You said: “One thing missing from this article is recognition of the idea that wearing a mask protects other people from your germs.” You’re right, I didn’t really cover (nor intend to) the purpose of masks, as the post was plenty long enough as it is. You’ve read my other posts where I do explore that (and in fact it’s only recently that sources are saying the masks might protect the wearer at all).

      We’re going to have to agree to disagree that the biggest risk to my grandmother is our exhalation, though, as I firmly believe the biggest risks include loneliness, isolation, and spending what will possibly/probably be her last Christmas and Thanksgiving alone. She welcomes hugs from her great-grandchildren, and I don’t blame her one bit.

      I’m quite happy to be unselfish and frequently sacrifice for the good of others – and on this topic in particular, when I had a cold a few weeks ago, I wore a thicker mask intentionally, to protect others in case I had COVID. But I won’t comply for the sake of compliance or give up my American freedoms without at least questioning, researching, and teaching.

      Thanks again for the sources,
      Katie

      1. Becca @ The Earthling’s Handbook

        I guess I misunderstood your opening, in which you worry that people will get used to wearing masks and that people in power are requiring masks just to control people, to be suggesting that mandates will continue beyond the point where they make any sense for public health. It’s the idea that anybody is using masks to control people just for the sake of being controlling (not out of a genuine belief that masks protect public health) that is totally alien to me except for your posts.

        If the pandemic does go on for years, it’ll be because it takes that long to develop an effective vaccine AND humans turn out unable to develop herd immunity without a vaccine (if infection doesn’t give permanent immunity to most people). I’d rather we spend years being careful than that we build more hospitals and morgues and accept high rates of illness and death. It makes more sense to me to continue precautions as long as we need them, than to refuse because “it’s been too long”—kind of like I hate wearing my winter coat in May, but if it happens to be 35 degrees in May I’d rather wear my coat than be cold!

        That reminds me, you didn’t answer my question about winter scarves or other face coverings worn in cold weather. I am genuinely curious whether you believe them to have the same risks as masks, if so how you handle those risks every winter, and if not why not.

        I mentioned protection of others because it is a very different concept from what you said in this article: “We’re only doing this for a little while to respect others.” That really downplays the seriousness—it’s like telling your kids to wear a yarmulke to a bar mitzvah to respect the traditions of the hosts (even though you believe in your family that God does not mind seeing the top of your head). I appreciate that you’re complying with mask mandates despite your qualms about the risks of masks. But if you do acknowledge that masks reduce transmission of your germs to others, please strengthen that message when speaking to your kids and to the public.

        1. I completely agree with everything Becca says here. I am so disappointed that some believe they are giving up theirs American freedoms by wearing a mask. I genuinely do not understand this point of view. It seems so little a gesture to do for the sake of others.
          I REALLY feel for all our healthcare heroes who have to wear a mask for an entire shift, every shift until this is all over. Can you imagine how hard THAT is? This former nurse, now stay-at-home mom, knows how hard it is to work like that.

          1. I agree, Amy, I feel for healthcare workers who have to wear masks all day, every day, as well — and that has just become applicable to our children and teachers, office workers and grocery store staff…everyone has to wear masks all day throughout their shift, and you know how hard it is to work like that. It’s quite a sacrifice.

            Thanks for the polite conversation,
            Katie

        2. Hi Becca,
          I did miss the question about scarves, I guess because we rarely wear them or anything that covers the face. Of course I’d make sure they get dried out after playing in the snow and before letting kids wear them again, but I admit I’ve never thought of bacterial risk quite like this before. Yes, that would be a similar situation, but not many kids wear a scarf over their faces 6-8 hours a day, on a daily basis.

          I’m really surprised you haven’t seen anyone talk about the “control” issue anywhere else — it’s quite common out there, but I guess not among folks you read.

          I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with masks reducing transmission of germs to others, but if and when I’m convinced, I’ll certainly strengthen my message. For now, we really are doing it to respect others, and the moment someone says we can take them off, we do.

          I await the day when we’re looking at data after the pandemic, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, and finally able to say “it’s over.” I don’t think we’ll know much for certain until then, and perhaps not even then. Did you see this study and its delay? https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2020/10/outrageous-large-danish-study-mask-wearing-delayed-published-major-medical-journals-therefore-preventing-results-made-public/

          Plenty of learning left to be done, that’s for sure.

          Thanks, Katie

          1. Becca @ The Earthling’s Handbook

            Yes, there’s plenty of learning to be done! That’s why I looked up this “delayed” study, which was published 5 days ago, and read the whole thing:
            https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817

            If you don’t have time to read it now, here are a few important quotes:

            “These findings do offer evidence about the degree of protection mask wearers can anticipate in a setting where others are not wearing masks and where other public health measures, including social distancing, are in effect. The findings, however, should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control of SARS-CoV-2 infection. During the study period, authorities did not recommend face mask use outside hospital settings and mask use was rare in community settings (22). This means that study participants’ exposure was overwhelmingly to persons not wearing masks.”

            “It is important to emphasize that this trial did not address the effects of masks as source control or as protection in settings where social distancing and other public health measures are not in effect.
            Reduction in release of virus from infected persons into the environment may be the mechanism for mitigation of transmission in communities where mask use is common or mandated, as noted in observational studies. Thus, these findings do not provide data on the effectiveness of widespread mask wearing in the community in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections.”

  7. Thank you, Katie. This is an excellent, well-researched post. God bless you and all at Kitchen Stewardship. Pax, Sister!

  8. Michele Sites

    I appreciate the research you conducted and information you shared. I like knowing various perspectives so that I can be more informed. Previously, that was a good thing. I can agree or disagree or decide to read more from your sources or to conduct my own research.

  9. Excellent and balanced presentation of what I also believe is the TRUTH, which the media is not sharing. Good job. Ivor Cummins is also a favorite resource for me. Clear and rational. I wish the rest of the world could see and listen and learn.

  10. Your blogs name is KITCHEN Stewardship. Are you the CDC? Completely inappropriate for you to post and spread this nonsense about how serious or not serious you think COVID is and if masks are appropriate. This has nothing to do with being in the kitchen! As a medical provider, I’m horrified. I will unsubscribe. 🙁

    1. Hi Meghan,
      Thanks for jumping in – curious, what area of medicine do you work in? I appreciate your perspective.

      Since its inception in 2009, Kitchen Stewardship has always been about balancing a family’s health and nutrition with the environment, budget, and time. We journey into the bathroom for natural cleaners and heavily into sunscreen, not exactly the kitchen. So I’m not worried about straying from my mission at all.

      This article is heavily sourced and admitted to being an editorial style at the same time. I believe human beings need to be allowed to make their own decisions based on the body of evidence we have available. I’m horrified that the conventional media displays their political biases so blatantly, and with the censorship going on in big tech (Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), it’s difficult to get a balanced perspective on many of the unfortunately politicized issues in our day. (That health has become political is the most horrifying of all.)

      I hope you also read our first 5 posts, which again, while not supporting universal mask use as more than a temporary effort, taught families how to wear them SAFELY. I had to explain to an acquaintance who works in the medical field in real life recently why is was important to wash her kids’ masks. People just aren’t cognizant about the issue.

      If we do this unintelligently and without all the information, masks truly may bring more harm than good to our society and our individual families. Don’t you think it’s fair for people to be informed of the risks? Then they may make their own decisions, as I have for my family. I’ll share my opinion politely on my own little corner of the Internet here, and while I’m sorry to lose you, if you’re not in favor of information and education, Kitchen Stewardship isn’t the place for you anyway.

      Best, Katie

      PS – If you have medical journal sources and research about (a) how effective masking is to prevent the spread of illness, particularly a coronavirus, or (b) proving that COVID-19 is serious enough to cause upheaval in our entire society, do share. This is a safe place for everyone to discuss respectful opinions.

      1. As long as we can all make responsible choices with the information available to us, Andrea, I’ve done my job. Today, I wore masks twice in public places, but I also did not wear one while driving and was careful not to contaminate my own mask. If we’re still doing this a year from now, I won’t be complying anymore. I’m grateful that you’re able to make your own choice, to read my words, and to have the freedom to write your own, even if we don’t agree.
        Responsibly, Katie

      2. I agree that these articles on the dangers of masks are super irresponsible. I’m very disappointed.
        We should be looking out for our neighbors and community members to do everything we can to keep each other safe.

        1. Hi Cort,
          Please keep in mind that I wrote 5 posts about how to use masks properly, how to mitigate the risks of masks (for example, breathing through your nose only avoids a number of issues). I am looking out for everyone, but I’ve always, always been all about balance, and I feel it’s irresponsible to look at this issue as if there’s only one side, as if it’s all black and white and that there’s no discrepancy in research. There are many viewpoints, many pieces of data, and many bits of knowledge that I believe folks have a right to know. I despise the fact that there have to be such stark demarcations of what “side” you’re on, as if everyone who says anything at all negative about masks is an “anti-masker” or a “coronavirus-denier.” I’m not either, and I believe we need to carve out a place in the middle ground to be safe, take care of one another, and remain informed. I won’t say my article is perfect, but my intentions are pure and I’m willing to edit as necessary if I’ve made mistakes.

          Katie

          1. Katie-
            Yes- you wrote other articles about how to wear masks safely. However, the tone of those articles read like this… “Masks are dangerous and I don’t want my kids wearing them, but if we HAVE to wear them, then this is how to do it safely.”

            A much safer tone in all these articles would have been along the lines of… “Research shows that wearing masks will protect others and ourselves. It is our neighborly (and Christian) duty to love one another by protecting one another. Here’s how to do so safely.” But that is obviously not what you believe. At least from what you wrote it doesn’t seem to be what you believe.

            You say that you’ve always been about balance. But these articles are not balanced. They come across as anti-mask and make you seem like a virus-denier.

            I wish I had the eloquence of some of the other commenters who comment so kindly. Alas, blunt is my default setting. I apologize if it comes across rude. That is not my intention.

            1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

              Cort, I agree completely about the tone of all of Katie’s mask articles. My impression is that Katie felt an initial fear and doubt of masks that has motivated her to latch onto every idea that seems to justify her feelings, no matter what the source, and consider these ideas equally as plausible as scientific reporting or the statements of major public health officials or even basic comprehension of what we do to prevent the spread of germs under normal circumstances.

              Consider the statement, “I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with masks reducing transmission of germs to others.” So… Why do surgeons wear surgical masks when operating on healthy patients? Why do we cover our sneezes and coughs? Come on!

              Or there’s the link Katie gave in replying to one of my comments, where she said “Did you see this study and its delay?”–that’s a link to an opinion piece on a political site; it’s not journalism or science writing, and a lot of it is sheer speculation and rumor. So my immediate response to reading that was to Google the name of the “delayed” study. In ten seconds I saw that the study had in fact been published, and by reading it I learned that it DID NOT show what the other article speculated and that in fact it addressed a question that is not very relevant to the issue of mask mandates. Katie had read something that supported her fears about mask mandates, and she passed it on without investigating. That really bothers me!

              Katie, I know you are an intelligent person capable of critical thinking and careful reading. That’s why it’s so disturbing to see you throwing around uninformed theories for “balance” without investigating the science behind them.

              I know this is a busy and stressful time when it’s hard to do in-depth investigation. But before you repeat a rumor, at least do one search to see if other sources are corroborating or debunking it!

              1. I know I said I would be quiet but I want to thank you Becca and Cort for taking the time and the effort to make these replies and (Becca thank you also for elaborating on my reply/ies). You got to the heart of my concerns without the flowery language.

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