Claim: wearing a mask causes people to contract bacterial pneumonia.
Full Text: A Facebook post suggests that wearing face masks will increase the risk of contracting pneumonia but there is no evidence that mask-wearing increases the risk of contracting bacterial pneumonia. Claiming a link between masks and pneumonia is not new, and it has been debunked by various fact–checkers.
The Associated Press looked into this claim, and was told by infectious disease specialist and professor of global health and medicine at Boston University, Davidson Harmer that there is “no evidence of masks leading to fungal or bacterial infections of the upper airway or the lower airway as in pneumonia”. He said theoretically bacterial growth could occur if someone wore a mask that was contaminated with moisture and became mouldy, but that was highly unlikely with normal mask use.
Another post said “When you exhale your body is eliminating toxins and unhealthy bacteria. By wearing a mask the toxic matter is trapped on the fabric and you’re inhaling it all in, causing infections like bacterial pneumonia and hypoxia.”
A team of public health specialist said there was “no evidence” to suggest face masks can increase the chance of developing pneumonia, “or any other bacterial, fungal or viral infection in the lungs”.
They added that masks are safe and effective for most people, though said there were some exceptions, such as “very young children (under two years of age) and people with health conditions that make it difficult to wear a mask (ex. certain pre-existing pulmonary or cardiac issues, mental health conditions, developmental disabilities).
The COVID-19 pandemic has been another false claim about wearing masks. One that circulated widely falsely stated that wearing face masks for long periods of time could cause hypercapnia, a situation where there is too much carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Mild cases can lead to issues such as headache and anxiety; severe cases can interfere with breathing.
Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic non-profit academic medical centre has said that that wearing cloth mask presents no risk of hypoxia in healthy adults. “Carbon dioxide will freely diffuse through your mask as you breathe,” it says (here).
As these sources note, healthcare workers have worn face coverings for extended periods of time without injury.
False. Correct use of masks will not cause bacterial pneumonia or hypoxia.