Can wearing a face mask be hazardous to your health? Doctor answers ABC7 viewer questions

With masks required during many activities in California, some wonder if wearing a face covering can be harmful to your respiratory health.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Can wearing masks for a long time be harmful to your respiratory health?

As masks are being required in most public areas in many California communities, some have found it hard to breathe in them for long periods of time and wonder about possible effects.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, an ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care answered questions from ABC7 viewers about masks and other aspects of staying healthy during the pandemic.

Question: I've heard people say masks can cause a buildup of carbon dioxide that can be hazardous to your health. Are there verified reports of medical professionals experiencing adverse health effects from wearing masks?

No.

Cardillo said while masks can be uncomfortable, there is no evidence to suggest they are harmful to human health. And their benefits - namely reducing your chance of exposure to the coronavirus - far outweigh any discomfort, he noted.

He said the N95 masks that doctors and other medical providers wear can be more uncomfortable for them, as they cover the entire face and only allow air in through the material, not around the sides.

The regular surgical masks that patients wear when visiting their doctor are more comfortable as they are thinner and allow air to be exhaled through the side of the covering.

"I will tell you, it's not that easy or comfortable for the providers," Cardillo said.

That's why doctors and nurses are advised to take a break from wearing the N95 mask every hour or so. They're told to find a quiet place to be alone and take off the mask for a few minutes.

Q: Is it safe to go to the optometrist and other medical specialists?

Yes.

Cardillo said most medical providers, including specialists such as optometrists and dentists, have established protocols to protect patients' health.

It's important not to delay medical treatments that can be life-saving or that can prevent a worsening of an existing problem, he said.

"It's critical that people don't delay care for medical issues," he said. "Every doctor's office is outfitted now to properly protect patients. You should not put off treating yourself."

Q: I've lost a lot of weight, dropping from 400 pounds to 300 pounds. Does this give me better immunity to fight COVID-19?

Yes.

"Every pound you lose gives yourself a better opportunity to fight this disease. The less weight you have on, the better it is for you."
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