The air is polluted, but it won’t kill you…at least not immediately. However, try going without air for a few minutes, and you won’t live to tell about it. So, yeah, air is important, even polluted air. You can’t see air, well not in most places. I’ve heard of cities where you could slice the air with a knife due to extreme pollution, but that’s not the norm.
If you want to get all sciencey, there are five basic elements to air: oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and dust particles. In places like Arizona, there’s more dust than water in the air, and in other places like Southeast Texas, there’s more water than oxygen in the air. Seriously, all air has some pollutants. It’s just the nature of living.
Important Lesson: Air is crucial for living, even polluted air.
Viruses, for example, don’t live independently in the air. Viruses are projected through the air by a cough or sneeze from an infected person, and to some extent by the regular breathing of an infected person because as you exhale, water vapor in your breath may contain particles of the virus. That has always been the way it works. Every breath you have taken your entire life was at risk for breathing in someone else’s germs. That sounds pretty icky, but it puts a few things into perspective. If you were a germaphobe in February, you’re just living your normal life in May, but dialed up a few notches. If you were not a germaphobe prior to March, why suddenly think everyone around you is a potential serial killer?
The truth is every human being has always had the capacity for being a serial killer just waiting for the right virus to spread with a well-aimed sneeze. Babies and toddler are experts at the process of germ-spreading because they know how to get close enough to cough right into your mouth, sneeze into your eyeballs, and smear their snot over every surface they can touch. Add a little projectile vomit and explosive diarrhea to the mix, and you have yourself a cute, but lethal, biological weapon.
Important Lesson: Toddlers are like missile silos full of germs.
The million dollar question these days is “to-mask or not-to-mask.” The answer is “yes.” Mask if you want to, especially if you have a cough or are prone to sneezing fits. It’s allergy season, after all. But practically speaking, you only need to mask in public. You’re trying to keep your germs off other people. Your car and your home are your domain. Your germs are there by default.
You may also choose to mask if you don’t want to breathe other people’s air, again only while you’re in public. Viruses don’t live indefinitely and independently in the air. They live on surfaces for a while, although no one can seem to agree how long that may be. One expert explained that the virus may live on the sidewalk for a few hours, but if you don’t lick the sidewalk, you don’t have to worry about it. Glad she cleared that up.
Important lesson: Don’t lick the sidewalk.
Now, there are two dilemmas about masking. One, is it really effective? Two, is it really ineffective? You can research each question from now until the proverbial cows come home and never get a definitive answer.
On one side, you have highly-educated, well-respected, experienced doctors, scientists, and epidemiologists who tell you that a mask is imperative to prevent the spread of viruses and germs. You’re keeping your breath to yourself and blocking your potentially virus-laden spit from spreading to other people. Seems legit.
On the other side, you have highly-educated, well-respected, experienced doctors, scientists, and epidemiologists who tell you that a mask is worthless and may even be harmful. The relatively thin weave of most cloth masks may allow the microscopic (i.e. teeny-tiny) virus particles to pass through. That seems less than ideal. Additionally, the cloth may trap water vapor from your breath and breed bacteria, which you then inhale at close range. That seems legit, too.
To counter the second group’s argument, the first group will tell you that you should only use the super high-quality PPE (personal protection equipment) masks that medical personnel use. This mask definitively blocks 95% of germs, including viruses. Hmm. Those are hard to come by from what I hear. And they’re intended to be single-use masks because they pose the same problem as the cloth masks of trapping water vapor and breeding bacteria.
Ideally, you throw away the super-special medical PPE mask after every outing. For the cloth masks, you should wash them in hot, soapy water to disinfect them after every outing. Like I need more laundry.
If you’re in group one, make sure you are wearing masks correctly. Your efforts to contain your air is in vain if your nose is hanging out. Do it right or give it up. Just saying.
Important lesson: Everyone has an opinion, regardless of how similar their education and experience.
Polluted or not, you should keep breathing air. It’s essential to life. How you choose to breathe it is entirely up to you. If your allegiance aligns with group one, you may be fine (or not). If you agree with group two, you may be fine (or not). Either way, you have made your choice.