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Fact check: Face masks do not cause the lung condition pleurisy

Thousands of social media users are sharing a claim that face masks cause the lung condition pleurisy. Pulmonary experts from the American College of Chest Physicians, the Mayo Clinic non-profit academic medical centre, the Indiana University School of Medicine and the American Lung Association all confirmed to Reuters that this is false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The posts ( here , here , here ) show a picture of a mask with a circular stain on the inside. The caption reads, “A friend posted this online. This is the mask of a child after 3 hours of use. If you are pro-mask take a good look at this. Your child is going to get very sick very soon and it won't be with corona. It will be pleurisy. Parents take note.”

Reuters was not able to verify the origin of the photo.

Pleurisy is a condition where the layers of tissue separating the lungs from the chest wall become inflamed causing sharp chest pain that becomes worse during breathing. (here)

Three experts confirmed to Reuters that the scenario outlined in the Facebook posts is not possible. Dr Clay Cowl, Immediate Past President of the American College of Chest Physicians and part of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Dr William Graham Carlos, a pulmonary critical care specialist at Indiana University School of Medicine, and Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, all said that it is not scientifically possible for wearing a mask to result in inflammation of the lining of the lung or pleurisy.

Pleurisy is usually caused by viral infections such as the flu, but can also sometimes be caused by bacterial infections, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis, fungal infections, lung cancer etc. ( here , here ).

Regarding the picture of the mask, Dr Cowl said, “The main reason for use of respiratory covering for reducing risk of COVID-19 spread is to minimize the transmission of aerosolized moisture-based secretions from the upper airway that tends to carry viral particles.  The image shown on the Facebook post actually underscores why it is so important to wear a mask since we see where secretions from the mouth or nose have collected - on the inside of the mask and not out into the ambient air.”

On concerns about wearing masks for three hours or longer, Learnaboutcovid19.org, a global team of public health experts, points out : “Healthcare workers have been wearing tighter masks for much longer than 8 hours a day without negative side effects.” (here)

They added that masks are safe and effective for most people: “Wearing masks is generally considered safe for children and adults. There are a few exceptions, for very young children (under two years of age in the United States) and people with health conditions that make it difficult to wear a mask (ex. certain pre-existing pulmonary or cardiac issues, mental health conditions, developmental disabilities). For the vast majority, wearing masks is an effective way to help reduce COVID-19 transmission without causing any major side effects, as long as masks are kept clean and used correctly.”

VERDICT

False. Three pulmonary experts confirmed to Reuters that face masks do not cause pleurisy. A global team of public health experts at Learnaboutcovid19 told Reuters that mask wearing is generally considered safe and helps reduce COVID-19 transmission, without major side effects.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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