Good Question: Will extended mask-wearing lead to more future illnesses?

Brennan Somers
Updated: March 22, 2021 08:18 AM
Created: March 22, 2021 07:16 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There's still a ways to go in the fight against COVID but we're getting there.

The vaccine rollout is really ramping up, more people are back at work, and schools are making plans to get more kids back at school. We're all still encouraged to wear masks, but what happens when that eventually starts to fade?

Teresa asked News10NBC's Brennan Somers: I've always heard that it's necessary for our bodies to be exposed to various germs/bacteria to build our immune system. Will the extended use of masks cause a spike in other illnesses when masking subsides?

Somers took that message to Jennifer Gutowski. She's the Associate Director of Infection Prevention at Rochester Regional Health. She told Somers it's a great question.

"I think what we've experienced right now is a nice pause," Gutowski said. "We had a step back, socially distanced, unfortunately, have not been able to see a lot of our close friends and family but that meant we had a break from cold and flu."

So what happens when we emerge from our COVID bubbles? Gutowski says we'll be ready for any common sicknesses.

"Our immune system works really well on the long term of our childhood illnesses, so if you are a normal adult a teenager, or child even most of us have been exposed to a lot of viruses and bacteria in our years," Gutowski added. "We will still remember those when we are stepping back out into the real world again."

Gutowski says looking ahead to the next peak of flu and cold season, they do expect an uptick in cases because we're doing more, but probably nothing too significant. That's because, while our cleaning and health awareness is extreme now, we've built a habit that won't completely go away.

The one group to watch though is delayed daycare for kids. That is expected because babies and toddlers will come across germs they haven't seen before.

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