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Should people with asthma wear face masks?



Last modified on Feb. 17, 2021

People with asthma should wear face masks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) note that people with moderate to severe asthma might have an increased risk of severe case of COVID-19. Therefore, wearing a mask is an important way to prevent the spread of the virus.

Studies also show that wearing a mask does not reduce oxygen levels and should not make breathing more difficult. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of face masks in public and when social distancing is not possible, and it is safe for people with asthma to wear a mask for as long as needed. People who feel it is difficult to breathe adequately with a mask ca, for example, try to limit the length of their outings requiring mask use. However, every patient is different and if you have been diagnosed with asthma, have a severe case, have difficulty breathing normally, or have difficulty breathing with a mask, you should speak with your doctor about options for protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. As of February 2021, the U.S. CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask for increased protection.

Context and background

Public health organizations around the world recommend the use of masks and face coverings. There are some exceptions, such as for children under 2 years of age and people with medical conditions that can make it difficult to breathe through a mask. However, people with asthma have generally not been included as one of these exceptions.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that having moderate-to-severe asthma may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and recommend that people with asthma avoid potential triggers for their condition, keep a 30-day supply of necessary medications (ex. inhalers), and consult their doctor regarding any concerns about their condition. For cleaning of indoor spaces with disinfectants, people with asthma can request assistance and make sure they are not in the room during cleaning. People with asthma should continue following guidelines when possible for using masks in public, in combination with social distancing and hand washing.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology provides additional information about the use of masks for people with asthma: “There is no evidence that wearing a face mask makes asthma worse. However, it is possible that some people with asthma may feel it is more difficult to get an adequate breath while wearing a face mask. While we support and advocate that people follow U.S. CDC recommendations, some people with asthma do not feel they can breathe adequately while wearing a mask…If you feel you can only wear a mask for a short time, plan for any necessary outings to public places to be as short as possible and to wear your mask as long as possible. It may be helpful to try different face coverings at home to find one that is most comfortable, and practice wearing the mask at home for a period before your next outing. Always use a clean mask for each outing.”

Used with permission by Health Desk, a public health hub that explains emerging COVID-19 science.

This article was written and edited by the Tayo editorial desk and has been reviewed by an independent panel of subject matter experts.

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