To the editor,
As a pediatric pulmonologist—a doctor who specializes in the respiratory system (Lungs) of children—I can assure you that behind that mask, your child’s breathing is just fine. They are getting all the oxygen they need, and their carbon dioxide levels aren’t rising. There have been 6 well done peer-reviewed studies that have measured oxygen and other breathing parameters using current validated scientific measures with no problems noted. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said masks are made from breathable materials and will not block oxygen a child needs. Also, carbon dioxide molecules are so small that they can’t be trapped by breathable material like face masks. Children are not deprived of oxygen as it flows through and around the mask.
As mask-wearing becomes increasingly mandated in stores, communities and certain states, complaints about breathing difficulties have spiked, and some are trying to use this as an excuse not to wear a mask.This presents a major problem for two reasons: masks definitely don’t harm oxygen levels and, right now for our children, they’re our best weapon (besides the vaccine) against the spread of COVID-19.
There are those, usually adults, who may experience anxiety or claustrophobia when wearing a mask, the same way some panic when getting into an elevator or CT scanner. This can be hard to combat, especially when you’re in the middle of it. But there are a few things you can do to try to calm yourself: long, slow breaths may steady you, as will the knowledge that despite how you’re feeling, your lungs are getting exactly what they need.
And remember, above all, just how important this is. As I said before, masks are one of our best lines of defense against the spread of COVID-19—not only to protect ourselves from catching the virus, but to prevent us from giving it to others. We all must do our part to protect our communities, and this is one important way to show you care about your neighbors.
Don Bukstein, MD