Cooties and the Mask

Last updated: February 2019

Have you ever wondered what the deal is with people wearing surgical masks? Could it be that everyone has a weak immune system or is something else going on? I recalled some years back many tourists visiting from Asia would walk about the city of New York with masks and umbrellas, and thought it odd. I wasn’t sure if we all needed to be wearing them or what? However, after being faced with multiple myeloma, now I get it!

What’s the deal?

After understanding how blood cancer can basically wipe out an immune system, it makes sense to cover up for protection. However, after digging a bit more on the topic, I learned a bit more. The reason we may see most people, especially from Asia, adorn masks is to protect their respiratory system from pollution. Pollution is a huge problem in Asia with outbreaks such as bird–flu and the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s. Though pollution is a reason for wearing a mark, a compromised immune is the other reason.

Is it me?

Well, wearing a mask is twofold. A mask can protect us from possible viruses and pathogens, but it can also protect others from contracting our cooties if we’re sick (other than the obvious). I have to say I do feel a bit uncomfortable when the team steps in my room and covers up with a mask. I know it’s not personal, but I tend to feel like I have leprosy. Though blood cancer is not contagious, maybe it’s me, I feel some people go the extra mile to cover up when I step in the room.  I recall a recent conversation and the person excused themselves as they reached for a mask, and the meeting ended with fist pumps. Again, I understand being mindful of passing along the unforeseen to us, it just can be debatable at times.

Does it work?

Well, we know it does make some uncomfortable, but does wearing a mask truly block germs? The jury is split, but yes, though it looks strange, it serves a good purpose in protecting those who are deathly ill.1 I was on the bus last week and viewed a young man who was visibly sick sneeze so hard and unexpectedly that he wasn’t quick to cover his mouth and nose. I witnessed the hundreds if not thousands of germs mist and spread through the air. I was mortified! I sat there wondering if they could have reached me from where I was sitting, would I have caught his evident cold or whatever he had going on? He did get a few stares from people other than me, as I was looking at him like he was crazy. I say all this to say it makes a huge difference in protecting ourselves and others when you’re under the weather, or even when you’re not. Unfortunately, I know some folks just don’t care about other people... period! We see that when we have people walk down the street sneezing and coughing into the air without covering up their orifices. I shudder with uncertainty when I do leave my home because the unknown of germs is definitely a concern.

Cover and block

Cover and block is my radar system when leaving my home. My cover is not touching things that I know many others may have handled. If I have to hold a pole, I wear gloves or remember not to use that hand to touch my face until I get to a sink to wash it thoroughly. Block is being wary of anyone who looks sick because you never know (like with the man I mentioned) when a cough may spread through unexpectedly. I have no qualms sitting elsewhere if you look like you have something extra going on that many initially harm me. So yes, now I get the importance of this mask for different reasons, but the bottom line is that its protection from the unknown.

The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile….when you feel like it

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