No, face masks don’t cause staph infections

face masks cause staph infections pandemic
Photo via Olgierd (3rd account)/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As calls to wear masks to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 grow, so do online conspiracy theories making false claims that masks cause other health risks. The latest conspiracy claims that face masks cause staph infections. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, types of germs commonly found on the skin or in the nose. Symptoms vary, but boils are the most common type of staph infection. Most staph infections are harmless but can become deadly if they go untreated. 

Doctors interviewed by USA Today and Lead Stories agreed that masks cannot cause staph infections. 

Dr. John Soderberg, a dermatologist with experience in medical, surgical, and cosmetic services, told Lead Stories that face masks do not cause staph infections. However, people who already carry the bacteria in their nose could potentially see it spread to their faces, particularly if they’re wearing a mask that’s already previously been used.

“No, masks don’t cause staph,” Soderberg said. “Now, some people are staph carriers in their nasal passages, so potentially those people could have more staph infections from wearing a mask—potentially—but not across the board.”

Dr. Zaineb Makhzoumi, the head of dermatologic surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told USA Today she had not seen a rise in staph infections since the start of the pandemic.

“In no cases have we seen or have we heard or have we had an association between mask use and staph infection,” Makhzoumi said. 

Makhzoumi added that she has been wearing masks daily for a decade and has never experienced a staph infection. Masks also do not cause fungal lung infections or a loss of consciousness, and if you wear one, you won’t suffer from CO2 intoxication. Masks are also safe for elderly people to wear.

As of June 2021, fewer people were wearing masks after the CDC proclaimed that those who are vaccinated don’t necessarily need to wear them indoors or outside.

Dr. Adam Friedman, the interim chair of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, told USA Today that anyone concerned about getting a staph infection could prevent them by practicing good hygiene. 

One of the best ways to avoid a staph infection, regardless of face masks, also happens to be the most effective way of protecting yourself from COVID-19: frequent and thorough hand washing. Also, make sure to clean your mask if possible (and dispose of them in a way that hopefully won’t harm the environment).

The science community remains in agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that wearing a face-covering is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19.

Read more on coronavirus face coverings:

Sources: Mayo Clinic, USA Today, Lead Stories, CDC  

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