Let’s start by explaining what asthma is
This disease is one of the most common conditions involving the respiratory tract in the world. The airways of people who suffer from this illness start to swell, narrow down, and produce large amounts of mucous, after being exposed to certain triggers. This results in coughing and a whistling sound during exhalation, called wheezing, in the person, which can also cause a shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
Usually, this illness is developed during childhood, with common triggers including moist and hot air, dust, pollen, smoke, and a wide variety of other small particles. This condition can severely affect some people who suffer from it, while others experience very mild forms only.
People with asthma and the use of face masks during the pandemic
The topic of mask-wearing has been surrounded by a lot of controversy and questions since the pandemic began. The universal use of masks in public settings is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), involving the use of either reusable or disposable face masks in any setting outside your household, and includes kids above the age of 2. The centers say this is a critical practice to ensure the spread of the virus is prevented, especially during this high transmission phase in the United States.
One thing that is important to point out is that cloth masks and all non-medical-grade masks protect mainly the people around the user and not so much the user themselves. So, these face masks only work when they’re used massively by everyone because, as the slogan says, “my mask protects you, and your mask protects me.”
There isn’t a specific mask for asthma patients or for people with other lung diseases. The same recommendations the CDC makes for the general public they make for these patients. And, it’s really important for people with asthma or other lung illnesses to wear masks, as these conditions represent a risk factor for severe COVID-19.
The overall recommendation the CDC makes is for the general public to reserve medical-grade masks, which includes surgical masks, N95 masks, and KN95 masks, for healthcare settings and for frontline workers. These items are crucial for the protection of workers in these high-risk situations, and they’ve been difficult to find for the increased demand caused by the pandemic.
For less risky situations, like going to the grocery store or taking a walk in the park, the gold standard are reusable cloth masks and disposable face masks that are not medical-grade. These should always be combined with social distancing and hygiene of the hands.
Additionally, the CDC says that respirators with exhalation valves are not recommended to be used for virus protection in any type of situation, since they only filter out the air that is being inhaled. The exhaled air is released unfiltered, and therefore the mask only protects the wearer but not those around them, and allows the transmission of COVID-19. They also state that face shields should only be used in combination with face masks and not as substitutes for them.
According to the CDC, the only people who shouldn’t be wearing a mask are:
- Kids under the age of 2
- Unconscious and other people who are unable to remove their mask
- People who are having trouble breathing for any reason.
When asthmatic people suffer from an exacerbation of their illness, be it because of it not being well-controlled, because they encountered a trigger, or because they suffer from a severe form, they can experience difficulty breathing. This can be accentuated by the mask, as Dr. David Stukus, a member of AAFA’s (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) Medical Scientific Council, explains.
Everyone must wear a face-covering to stop the spread of the virus, and if asthma patients suffer an exacerbation they wouldn’t be able to do so. The correct way to handle this is by preventing it from happening, and these are some strategies:
- Go for a breathable face mask that fits well on your face
- Medical or surgical masks, which are loose-fitting, are good options for them
- Avoid wearing masks as much as possible
- Avoid situations where infection is possible (traveling, being in contact with sick people, crowded spaces, etc.)
- Clean and disinfect your home more regularly
- Keep your asthma under control, which must be a priority even when the pandemic is over. To do this, avoid your regular asthma triggers, take your medication, and get checked up by your specialist regularly.
Are N95 masks a good option for asthma patients?
N95 masks are one of the most useful face masks for healthcare workers during the pandemic. They’re considered the face mask with the best antiviral properties, and are the most efficient for virus protection. They have many different uses outside the healthcare field, and some of the most popular models include the 3M 8210, the 3M 1860, and the 3M 8511.
Although they’re very efficient, to perform effectively they need to form a tight seal around the wearer’s face to prevent air leakage. This can be uncomfortable for people with pre-existing conditions that make them have difficulty breathing. Also, N95 masks are currently being reserved for healthcare workers only because of their scarcity and value. These two reasons make them not the best option for asthma patients.
As we mentioned many medical supplies in the USA have been difficult to find for sale, and hospitals need to buy them in bulk and wholesale. For this reason, we recommend our readers to stay protected with reusable cloth masks to reserve these items for the healthcare facilities.