People who have asthma or other lung conditions should not wear a face mask if it makes it difficult for them to breathe, Asthma UK has said.
The UK government now advises people to wear face covers if they are in places where it is difficult to stay at least two meters (6’6 “) from others.
This is because the coronavirus is a respiratory virus, which means it infects people when inhaled and attaches to cells in the airways and lungs.
But people with asthma or diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis may find that masks or facial covers make it difficult to breathe.
Masks can make it more difficult to draw air into the lungs, can cause asthma in some patients, and can also cause anxiety that changes people’s breathing patterns.
However, the patients are in a catch-22 because they are also at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the virus, and are more likely to spread it if they are contagious.
Experts say that people should wear a mask if they can comfortably, to protect themselves and others around them, but not compromise their own health.
Wearing masks in certain situations in public is now mandatory in many countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia (Pictured: three staff put on masks in preparation for work at a bar in Berlin)
In its official guidelines, the British cabinet office now says: ‘If you can, wear face cover in an enclosed area where social distance is not possible and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in busy areas, for example by public transport or in some shops. ‘
But it adds, “Facial coverings shouldn’t be used by children under 2 years old or those who find it difficult to treat them correctly. For example, children without primary school age or children with breathing problems. ‘
Respiratory disorders are diseases that interfere with a person’s breathing, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or lung cancer.
Wearing a mask, experts say, can make it more difficult to draw air into the lungs and worsen the symptoms of those conditions.
Asthma UK says, ‘For some people with asthma, wearing a face cover may not be easy. It can make it more difficult to breathe.
“The government has advised that people with respiratory disease should not wear face cover, so if you find it difficult, don’t wear one.”
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with the non-profit Allergy & Asthma Network, said people with lung disease, people with skin abnormalities in their face or neck, or children or people with dementia may not be able to wear masks regularly.
Those with breathing problems may find they worsen due to the mouth and nose cover, she said.
Dr. Parikh told MailOnline, “People with lung disease are in a catch-22 because they probably need the mask more than the average person, but breathing can be challenging.
‘[Vulnerable] people absolutely must wear masks if they can. Not only does it protect them, but people with asthma or COPD can spread even more of the virus because they cough, sneeze, and breathe harder than other people. ‘
Dr. Parikh added, “We are approaching Daylight Saving Time, so it’s hot outside, and constantly breathing hot air on your own breath can be quite uncomfortable.
The UK government has published a guide to help people make T-shirt face covers to protect themselves from the coronavirus
THE TRUTH ABOUT FACE MASKS: WHAT STUDIES HAVE DISPLAYED
Researching how well different types of masks and facials vary, but recently, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are increasingly leaning towards the idea that something is better than nothing.
A study from the University of Oxford, published March 30, concluded that surgical masks are as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
It’s too early for reliable data on how well they prevent infection with COVID-19, but the study found that the thinner, cheaper masks work in flu outbreaks.
The difference between surgical or face masks and N95 masks is in the size of particles that – and more importantly – cannot get through the materials.
N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and shaped material that fits tightly over the face and can trap 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, looser and more porous.
This makes surgical masks much more comfortable to inhale and act on, but less effective in preventing small particles from entering your mouth and nose.
Drops of cough and sneezing saliva and mucus are very small, and viral particles themselves are particularly small – in fact, they are about 20 times smaller than bacteria.
For this reason, a JAMA study published this month still claimed that people without symptoms should not wear surgical masks, as there is no evidence that the equipment will protect them from infection – although they can prevent people who cough and sneeze from others infect.
But the Oxford analysis of previous studies – which has not yet been peer-reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing and statistically offered no less protection than N95 for health professionals around influenza patients.
However, any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices. Experts generally agree that there is no substitute for thorough and frequent hand washing to prevent disease transmission.
Some think the masks can also help to “train” people not to touch their faces, while others argue that the unfamiliar garment will actually make people more likely to do so, increasing infection risks.
If the CDC instructs Americans to wear masks, it could pose a second problem: hospitals are already facing a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment.
“It is uncomfortable to breathe hot air because we are used to being in a moderate environment. For some asthmatics, warm air is a trigger that can trigger asthma attacks, so unfortunately it’s a perfect storm for them. ‘
Dr. Parikh said there is no evidence that the general public would use masks that have been used heavily enough – or wear them long enough – that they would feel the effects of inhaling carbon dioxide they had just exhaled.
She said medical grade masks are not necessary for normal people to wear and should be reserved for medical professionals.
This is in line with the CDC’s advice, that people should make their own fabric face cover rather than buying special ones.
The British government is also urging people to wear ‘face covers’ instead of masks.
This could be scarves, bandanas, cloths or even one published do it yourself guide for making a basic mask from an old t-shirt.
Health Minister Jo Churchill: “We recommend that people consider wearing a face covering if they can in confined public areas where social distance is impossible, such as on public transport or in shops.
This can help prevent you from spreading the virus to others.
“You don’t need a clinical mask that is a priority for our health professionals. Instead, a face cover is sufficient and we encourage people to make it at home with items they already own. ‘
Countries around the world now demand that people wear masks in public to prevent them from spreading the disease.
Although the practice was already widespread in East Asia, it has now spread to Western Europe and Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and last week France required people to wear it legally in certain situations.
It’s not necessary in the U.S., but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people wear some type of face cover in public.
While the scientific consensus is that a mask or face covering will not protect someone from the virus, it is possible that people spray virus-infected drops into the air so that people around them can breathe.
This may be especially true for people with lung conditions that cause them to cough, sneeze, or breathe more heavily than usual, Dr. Parikh.
The coronavirus spreads in droplets, which means they piggyback on the water that people normally breathe out – which causes condensation when you breathe on a window.
A cough or sneeze can spread the virus significantly beyond just breathing.