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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and recommendations and requirements about face coverings continue to evolve, we know some patients with asthma have questions about wearing masks in public. This guidance is provided to aid the discussion on this topic.
- The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
- Face masks help to slow the spread of the virus. Masks can help keep people who may have the virus from transmitting it to others. Some areas of the country require people to wear a mask in public, especially where social distancing may be difficult. Cloth face masks are available for purchase in many stores or online. They can also be made at home from common materials at low cost. One benefit of cloth face masks is they can be washed and reused so they are always available.
- Masks can be used as an additional, public health measure in combination with social distancing, staying home when possible, and frequent hand washing. People who are feeling sick should stay home.
- Face masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- 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 CDC recommendations, some people with asthma do not feel they can breathe adequately while wearing a mask. They should avoid going to public places as much as possible. Being in public without a face mask may increase the chances of passing on a COVID-19 infection to others even if symptoms are not present.
- We don’t yet know if cloth face masks reduce the risk of infection for the wearer. Right now, the main purpose for recommending or requiring masks in public is to prevent those who have the infection from passing it to others. Even people without symptoms can transmit the virus to others.
- 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. If possible, don’t take your mask off and put it back on during a single outing, as touching the mask increases the possibility of contamination.
- We recommend that everyone continue to practice good hand hygiene and limit touching their face, especially when in public. Masks are not a replacement for social distancing, which continues to be extremely important in stopping the spread of the virus.
- We strongly recommend that anyone with asthma continue to take their maintenance asthma medications to keep their symptoms under control and to reduce their risk for an asthma exacerbation or hospitalization. They should also continue to follow up with their allergist and other treating physicians for their continued care during this time.