Medical Exemption : Recently a woman dubbed “Karen” was kicked off a plane because she refused to wear a mask. She claimed she had a medical exemption. Here is my take on “medical exemptions” from wearing a mask for coronavirus.

Yes, it would be nice if we did not have to hear a mask for coronavirus (COVID-19). Here’s reality though – masks reduce transmission. And there are no medical exemption from wearing a face mask, unless someone has a severe skin condition of their face, like a second or third-degree burn. Some might make the same point as this Florida woman recently did, when she stood up at a meeting of the Palm Beach County Commissioners and said, “I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear, things gotta breathe.”

I think that the point she is TRYING to make is that the mask causes there to be less circulation of air in front of her face. And yeah it’s true, there is less circulation of air right in front of your nostrils and mouth when you’re wearing one of these masks or face coverings.

Medical Exemption

But does it obstruct airflow into and out of your nostrils, and mouth? This is like asking if you go to the beach, and you leave the beach with sand in between your toes, is there less sand on the beach? Technically, yeah, but it’s negligible. Here’s why it doesn’t obstruct airflow in and out of your lungs. It’s because the air passes freely in the areas around your mask.

As long as the mask is not too tight on your face, and as long as the mask is not too thick, it’s not going to obstruct airflow in and out of your lungs. But if you’re properly wearing a proper mask, you should not get that feeling, no matter what underlying medical condition someone has.

So it’s worth trying different types of masks, and/or adjusting the fit of the mask if you feel like its impacting your breathing. A mask like the one I’m holding here, has essentially 0 impacts on airflow in and out of your lungs, as long as it’s not too snug on your face. And that is part of the purpose for having the wire in these masks, is so that it can conform to your face, and allow for air to flow around the mask.

Yes there are different types of face masks, and some have more fabric than others, but as long as it’s not so tight as to compress your nostrils or lips, it’s not going to obstruct airflow.

And it’s well established by now that wearing these masks reduces transmission of this disease, and this has been confirmed in several studies. And there are studies that visually demonstrate the difference between wearing masks and not wearing masks, including when someone coughs and sneezes.

Check out my video on the airborne transmission to see what I’m talking about if you haven’t already. And there are countries that have had such low coronavirus numbers, like South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, New Zealand…. A big part of their success is because of masks.

Medical Exemption

Here are my recommended items:

Regular Medical/Surgical Mask

Elastomeric Respirator Mask to Prevent Inhaling The Virus

Glasses/Goggles to Protect Your Eyes

Air Purifier

Pulse Oximeter to measure your Oxygen at Home

Vitamin D

Dr. Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

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