Disadvantages of healthy people using masks

Posted on 17th July, 2020


A member of the public kindly forwarded a document in response to the BOB blog 'Government Exemptions for using Face Masks on Public Transport'. Below is an extract from the World Health Organisations 'Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19' (05 June 20).


"Potential harms/disadvantages

The likely disadvantages of the use of mask by healthy people in the general public include:

  • potential increased risk of self-contamination due to the manipulation of a face mask and subsequently touching eyes with contaminated hands;
  • potential self-contamination that can occur if non-medical masks are not changed when wet or soiled. This can create favourable conditions for microorganism to amplify;
  • potential headache and/or breathing difficulties, depending on type of mask used;
  • potential development of facial skin lesions, irritant dermatitis or worsening acne, when used frequently for long hours;
  • difficulty with communicating clearly;
  • potential discomfort;
  • a false sense of security, leading to potentially lower adherence to other critical preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene;
  • poor compliance with mask wearing, in particular by young children;
  • waste management issues; improper mask disposal leading to increased litter in public places, risk of contamination to street cleaners and environment hazard;
  • difficulty communicating for deaf persons who rely on lip reading;
  • disadvantages for or difficulty wearing them, especially for children, developmentally challenged persons, those with mental illness, elderly persons with cognitive impairment, those with asthma or chronic respiratory or breathing problems, those who have had facial trauma or recent oral maxillofacial surgery, and those living in hot and humid environments"

[NOTE 1: Consider those with asthma, already struggling to breathe without a mask, "There are 5.4 million people in the UK living with asthma , around 1 million have ‘difficult’ asthma which includes an estimated 200,000 adults and children in the UK with ‘severe’ asthma."  That’s around one in twelve of us.


NOTE 2: Consider people who are deaf or hard of hearing that rely on lip reading in order to 'hear', "There are 12 million people with hearing loss across the UK, that’s around one in six of us"]


"Potential benefits/advantages

The likely advantages of the use of masks by healthy people in the general public include:

  • reduced potential exposure risk from infected persons before they develop symptoms;
  • reduced potential stigmatization of individuals wearing masks to prevent infecting others (source control) or of people caring for COVID-19 patients in non-clinical settings;(70)
  • making people feel they can play a role in contributing to stopping spread of the virus;
  • reminding people to be compliant with other measures (e.g., hand hygiene, not touching nose and mouth). However, this can also have the reverse effect (see [above]);
  • potential social and economic benefits. Amidst the global shortage of surgical masks and PPE, encouraging the public to create their own fabric masks may promote individual enterprise and community integration. Moreover, the production of non-medical masks may offer a source of income for those able to manufacture masks within their communities. Fabric masks can also be a form of cultural expression, encouraging public acceptance of protection measures in general. The safe re-use of fabric masks will also reduce costs and waste and contribute to sustainability."
  • [How do these suggestions help the small businesses and high street shops that are losing customers to online large businesses due to enforced COVID19 related government policies?]

"If masks are recommended for the general public, the decision-maker should:

  • clearly communicate the purpose of wearing a mask, where, when, how and what type of mask should be worn. Explain what wearing a mask may achieve and what it will not achieve, and communicate clearly that this is one part of a package of measures along with hand hygiene, physical distancing and other measures that are all necessary and all reinforce each other;
  • inform/train people on when and how to use masks safely (see mask management and maintenance sections), i.e. put on, wear, remove, clean and dispose;
  • consider the feasibility of use, supply/access issues, social and psychological acceptance (of both wearing and not wearing different types of masks in different contexts);
  • continue gathering scientific data and evidence on the effectiveness of mask use (including different types and makes as well as other face covers such as scarves) in non-health care settings;
  • evaluate the impact (positive, neutral or negative) of using masks in the general population (including behavioral and social sciences)."

"WHO encourages countries and community adopting policies on masks use in the general public to conduct good quality research to assess the effectiveness of this intervention to prevent and control transmission." Hopefully this information and research will be publicly accessilbe by the UK government ASAP.


The WHO also gives a table of examples (below) of where the general public should be encouraged to use medical and non-medical masks in areas with known or suspected community transmission. They refer to grocery stores, at work, social gatherings, closed settings, including schools, churches, mosques, social works, cashiers, servers, people >60 years, and more. 



What will our society look like if the full table below is implemented in the UK? There have already been tens of thousands of deaths caused by the Lockdown itself due to the polices, practices, restrictions and removal of NHS services, with many more expected as the NHS waiting expects to hit 10 million people. (NB there have been 45K COVID19 attributed deaths in the UK to date, with 66 today).


What will be the effect of this masking on the population's natural immunity? If you have information on clinical studies please send to BOB, so that it can be shared with everyone.



See also UK Government 'Exemptions to wearing a face covering where they are mandate' (14 July 20 - (PDF)), which reiterate the exemptions previously posted on BOB at 'Government Exemptions for using Face Masks on Public Transport'.


BOB Key COVID19 Information Highlights 


BOB Coronavirus Information 


BOB non-mainstream COVID1984 information 




Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (0)