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 covid.
Yes, it would be nice if we did not have to hear a mask for COVID. Here’s reality, though – masks reduce transmission. And there are no medical exemptions 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.”
The point she is TRYING to make is that the mask causes less air circulation 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.
But does it obstruct airflow into and out of your nostrils and mouth? This is like asking if you go to the beach and leave the beach with sand in between your toes, is there less sand on the beach? Technically, yeah, but it isn’t essential. 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 correctly 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 adjusting the fit of the mask if you feel like it’s 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 part of the purpose of having the wire in these masks is to conform to your face and allow 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, which has been confirmed in several studies. And some studies 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 some countries have had such low covid numbers, like South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, New Zealand…. A big part of their success is because of masks.
Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine
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