By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Just about every day on social media you can find claims that masks limit oxygen.

“You are putting yourself at immediate danger to life and health with irreversible adverse effects,” says a woman in one of the videos on social media.

The reality is that’s just not the case, says CBS4 medical editor Dr. Dave Hnida.

“So people make the argument, you’re building up carbon dioxide and it makes you light headed, gives you a headache, makes you foggy headed. It’s not the case in any way, shape or form,” says Dr. Dave.

We went to one of Colorado’s favorite exercise spots, Red Rocks Amphitheater. We found newlyweds Sam and Elisa Getsinger visiting from Iowa. They wore masks as they walked around at a far higher altitude than back home.

“If it’s really hot in a certain area and you’ve been wearing for a really long time you might start to get panicky, but I think that’s more of a mental thing,” said Elisa.

We also found the Elevations 05 Summit Premier League girls soccer team from Highlands Ranch working out.

(credit: CBS)

Carmen Farwell, 14,  and her dad agreed to help us out with a little experiment.  We’d have her do a little running with a pulse oximeter on her finger. So off the team went.  Right after, the pulse oximeter showed a reading of 93, which is the saturation level of oxygen in her red blood cells. That’s a solid reading from a young athlete at high elevation of 6400 feet. Then Carmen ran with a mask on. In fact, she ran an additional row. Upon return, her reading was 94, then up to 95, then down to 92 and 93.

(credit: CBS)

That squares up with Dr. Dave’s view. He notes that doctors and nurses do long, complicated surgeries while wearing masks.

“Except for being dehydrated, no. I think the biggest thing when we’re in a 12-hour plus surgery is where we’re able to get fluids… We just keep working away.”

(credit: CBS)

The reason, says Dr. Dave, is that the masks may be able to stop the droplets that contain viral particles, particularly on exhalations, but the masks allow the small oxygen particles come in and the small CO2 particles we exhale out.

“It’s just not tightly-woven enough.”

In summary, he reminds us that masks are cutting disease.

“The only thing that’s been shown to work against coronavirus has been use of a mask. It cuts down transmission by minimum of fifty percent… that’s your tried and true science right there.”

Sam and Elisa viewed it as no big deal.

“It doesn’t affect us either way and if it can protect somebody we might as well do it,” said Sam Getsinger.


Alan Gionet

Comments (5)
  1. Kim says:

    I would like to know what specifically what scientific data supports 50% cloth mask efficiency. The CO medical school and universities have published 13%.

  2. Mary says:

    human: Perhaps you should read “Killer COVID-19 Masks? The Truth About Trapped Carbon Dioxide” at the Hartford Healthcase site dated June 22, 2020
    “From the Frontlines: The Truth About Masks and COVID-19” from the American Lung Association dated June 18, 2020
    “Partly false claim: Continually wearing a mask causes hypercapnia” from Reuters dated May 5, 2020
    “Wearing A Mask To Reduce The Spread Of Coronavirus Will Not Give You Carbon Dioxide Poisoning” from Forbes dated May 12, 2020
    “Does Wearing a Face Mask Reduce Oxygen—and Can It Increase CO2 Levels? Here’s What Experts Say” from Health dated May 13, 2020

    Basically, ALL the articles agree that the average cloth mask (as well as over the counter “medical masks”) will NOT cause hypercapnia – and even the “gold standard” N95 masks which seal much tighter to the face than the others do need to be worn for MANY HOURS before there’s a problem (they don’t seem to cause issues with surgery staffs who are often involved in 12 hour or longer surgeries).

  3. human says:

    Masks are not keeping us from getting oxygen. Actually the oxygen level is not so important and it may vary widely. Masks cause hypercapnia which is MUCH worse.

    1. heartflower says:

      Hey human, did you even read the citations Mary gave above that prove you wrong? The simplest proof is that the mask only increases the dead space in your respiratory system by a small percentage, much less than the variability from person to person.

  4. “Good Question: Are Masks Keeping Us From Getting Oxygen?” — no, it isn’t; it’s an idiotic question prompted by right-wing conspiracy theorists.

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