Doctor urges public to wear masks as he dispels 'nonsense' claims around oxygen levels

15 July 2020, 20:13

NHS surgical doctor explains how masks do not reduce oxygen intake

By Megan White

An NHS surgical doctor has dispelled "nonsense" claims that wearing a face covering can reduce oxygen levels in the blood by demonstrating on himself.

Dr Joshua Wolrich filmed the clip after being forwarded “nonsense” claims that “mask wearing was dangerous.”

It shows the doctor, who works in orthopaedics, recording the oxygen saturation of his blood both before and while wearing a mask.

The number remains the same, with Dr Wolrich saying: “Masks do not have the ability to reduce your oxygen, that is medically false.

“Stop making stuff up, stop listening to people who are making stuff up, stop turning this into a political issue.

“Masks help protect you and protect others. If you’re told to wear them, do so. Stop being selfish.”

Dr Joshua Wolrich filmed the clip after being forwarded “nonsense” claims that “mask wearing was dangerous”
Dr Joshua Wolrich filmed the clip after being forwarded “nonsense” claims that “mask wearing was dangerous”. Picture: Dr Joshua Wolrich

Speaking to LBC News, the 30-year-old said he had seen an “awful lot” of posts claiming masks were “toxic,” and shared his video after becoming increasingly frustrated.

Dr Wolrich explained: “My main MO is mythbusting and addressing nutrition and health myths, so over the past few months with Covid, I’ve channelled my energy into passing on the myths around that – the 5G nonsense, claims that the virus is fake, all this kind of stuff.

“I get sent a lot of nonsense from my followers, which they pass on to ask if it’s okay or real, and I started seeing an awful lot of people claiming that mask wearing was dangerous, and that it was toxic because it reduced your oxygen levels and it caused you to retain carbon dioxide, so I thought I’d start with the oxygen one to begin with.

“The more I saw, the more frustrated I got, which you can probably see – I had to record it a couple of times and every time I recorded it I got more and more frustrated.

“I just felt the need to put something out that, even though it wasn’t an amazingly scientific test because I only had the mask on for 15-20 seconds, the fact of the matter is it doesn’t reduce your oxygen.

“I wanted something visual and ideally shareable, which it ended up being, which was helpful.”

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Dr Wolrich said he believes the coronavirus lockdown could have prompted people to share conspiracy theories “which would normally be ridiculous.”

He added: “I think potentially, with lockdown and being on your phone with a larger time spent browsing social media and not spending time with other people has had an effect on people seeing stuff and sharing stuff which normally would be ridiculous.

“I think with fewer people to run stuff by, there’s been an explosion of stuff being shared that’s completely ridiculous and completely conspiracy-led, and it’s really not helpful.

“I think there are certain things which have settled down, I think the vast majority of people know Covid is real now, which is good, but the conspiracy theories have just changed.

“Currently it’s masks, and that masks are just a way to control us and they’re dangerous for us, whereas no-one was really talking about masks a couple of months ago and whether or not they’re dangerous – now it’s the thing to be concerned about, in a way.”

He added: “If, for example, somebody thought 5G was actually how Covid was started, then obviously it makes sense for them to believe that masks are just another way for the Government to control us.

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“It’s kind of a natural progression from believing in one conspiracy theory and then just using whatever the current topic is to create a new conspiracy theory.”

He also said that, because of his job, he is “very much aware of how masks work” and questioned how there were suddenly fears over mask wearing despite surgeons having worn them for “years and years.”

Asked about the Government’s decision to implement the compulsory wearing of masks in shops from July 24, Dr Wolrich said: “It’s really difficult – I don’t fully understand the intentions behind some of the Government messaging.

“I agree with some of it, I disagree with some of it, I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of how this is working.

“But from a medical perspective, I personally believe they should have been recommended earlier on.

“I know and I understand that there was concern at the beginning that if masks were recommended to the entire public there would be more of an issue with the shortage of masks – we were short of PPE in general.

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“So there was a concern that if we told people to wear them, they’d be going and buying surgical masks online, which does reduce the overall supply, and globally the supply has been incredibly low.”

Dr Wolrich said although it is important to wear masks, it is also important not to “abuse people in the street for not wearing one” as they could have a genuine reason for being unable to.

But for everyone else, he emphasises that wearing a face covering is going to be a “great benefit to you” while indoors or in an enclosed space.

He said: “I think some very good, standard advice, which is echoed by the vast majority of my colleagues globally, is that if you’re in an enclosed space or an area where you can’t socially distance, then a mask is going to be a great benefit to you.

“The main reason for that is it’s going to prevent you from expelling droplets onto other people, and we don’t know whether or not you’re infectious because there are a lot of asymptomatic infectious people.

“It will also protect you, to an extent, but the more people that wear it, the better we’re going to have in regards to reducing infection levels.

“There are some people who do struggle with wearing them, but that number is a lot less than it would appear by looking at the internet.

“Not everybody with a respiratory condition can’t wear one, for example, the vast majority of people with asthma can still wear masks.

“You can practice at home, try not to get too anxious while wearing it, being aware that it’s not directly reducing your oxygen levels so you don’t panic – there are lots of things we can do.

“The overriding message is we need to be wearing them at all costs in areas where we can’t distance from each other and inside.

“If we wear a mask, we should be able to reduce the number of cases overall.”