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Cooties and the Mask

Cooties and the Mask

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

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Neilson, S. The surgical mask is a bad fit for risk reduction. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Available at


  • Carole McCue
    6 months ago

    You are so right. We who have blood cancer may be immunosuppressed. I was experiencing freq colds. I now take extra vitamin C, avoid anyone who is sick and have stopped shaking hands in church during mass.
    Thank you for raising awareness.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    6 months ago

    You’re so welcome Carole. Yes, we need to take the bull by the horn in protecting ourselves, in this compromised new day. Best!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    10 months ago

    It’s definitely important to protect ourselves. Others don’t realise that some of us are immunocompromised. And a mask doesn’t look as odd as if used to. So wear it and be proud.

  • bluchs
    10 months ago

    I wear a mask, every where I go.
    Yes, I am paranoid of germs, I am Immune Compromised.
    But I have seen, over and over again, how filthy and inconsiderate people are.
    Every time I use a rest room, at a store or rest area, etc. I see male patrons leave without washing their hands.
    I was at a Wal-Mart’s and I saw a male employee, come out of a stall, and simply go back to work without even washing his hands.
    I was at the post office a few months ago and, a woman behind me sneezed, and her snot, hit me in the back of my head and neck.
    I immediately went home and showered and removed my contaminated cloths.
    I was admitted to the hospital 2 days later with pneumonia.
    My primary care physician, will not let me come to her office during flue season, unless it is an emergency, because of the germs all over the waiting room.
    I was at emergency ( I thought, I may have pneumonia again ) it was pleurisy, and the emergency room doctor said ” You will be safer taking antibiotics at home, than here in the hospital, because of the germs in here”
    I keep hand sanitizer in my car, and in my pocket at all times.
    If I use the gas pump, ATM etc. I always use hand sanitizer before I touch anything else, Period, every single time.
    I use the sanitizing wipes on the handles of shopping carts always.
    I no longer shack hands, I avoid family gatherings, especially if children are there.
    I see people cough and sneeze into their own hands, then continue about their business, touching things as if it was OK.
    Scared of the unknown?
    But also of the known, it is right in front of us, all you have to do is pay attention the actions of others, You will see it, just as I now do!
    Even when in the hospital, I am always in isolation when in the hospital, sometimes even when universal precautions are posted.
    But staff still just walk right in, no masks or gloves, even when it says to use them, on my door.
    We must be aware, and help ourselves, so I to, do not touch anything, that may have been touched by another?
    It sucks to be Immune Compromised!
    But self education and precaution, is Key!
    For Us, the common cold, can kill us?

  • Ann Harper moderator
    10 months ago

    I have seen similar things in the healthcare system and everyday life as well. We all get sick, but our germs is the one thing we don’t need to share. I totally get why you would want to wear your mask.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator author
    10 months ago

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

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