A discarded face mask is shown on a street next to a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Sunday, May 17, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Masks problematic for asthmatic, hearing-impaired people and people with autism

For some, wearing a mask could do more harm than good

Face masks are dangerous to the health of some Canadians and problematic for some others.

In recommending people wear masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19, national chief public health officer Theresa Tam has also warned against judging those who can’t wear them.

“Be very aware of those with different types of cognitive, intellectual disabilities, those who are hearing impaired and others,” Dr. Tam said.

“Don’t assume that someone who isn’t wearing a mask or is wearing something different doesn’t have an actual reason for it.”

Asthma Canada president and CEO Vanessa Foran said simply wearing a mask could create risk of an asthma attack.

She said if a mask inhibits the ability of someone to breathe in any way, they recommend not wearing one.

READ MORE: Wearing non-medical masks now recommended in public: Canada’s top doctor

Foran suggests asthmatics wear a mask in their home for 20 minutes to test their comfort level before venturing out, and also to head out in cooler weather.

“Wearing masks means breathing hot and humid air, so that can trigger asthma symptoms,” she said.

“We say if they cannot wear a mask, they must ensure they’re maintaining physical distancing and practising good hand hygiene.”

Foran said people with severe allergies might also find wearing a mask difficult at this time of year.

Autism Canada family support representative Dominique Payment said adults and children with the spectrum disorder have trouble with sensory processing, as well as tactile, olfactory and nervous-system hypersensitivity that wearing a mask could aggravate.

“It could cause some serious challenges,” she said. ”Because their senses are so heightened, it affects everything.”

Payment has two children on the autism spectrum. One is anxious about masks because he associates them with having his teeth cleaned at the dentist, which he dislikes.

“Unfortunately this whole COVID situation and everyone wearing masks can cause some anxiety for these children because they are associating with not-so-positive experiences,” she said.

READ MORE: Policy change sparked by death of disabled B.C. woman ‘will save lives’

Payment said having children put a mask on a favourite stuffed animal, or choosing fabric colour and pattern for a mask, could help prepare them to wear one.

The deaf can’t read lips covered by an opaque mask, which also muffles sound for those who are hearing impaired.

Clovis Bernard wrote in a post on the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association website earlier this month that situations are difficult to navigate in this pandemic.

“The new reality is that it is recommended to wear a mask or a face covering while going out, to reduce the community spread of the coronavirus,” Bernard wrote.

“Unfortunately, it also covers up the faces that we rely so much on for understanding people.

“Maybe you are nervous about asking people to pull down their masks so you can understand them, but it is as if you are asking them to expose themselves to a health risk.”

He said in his experience, most people are more than willing to lower their masks for a quick second for you provided the circumstance is safe to do so.

The Alaska-based company Rapid Response PPE has developed face masks with clear shields so hearing-impaired people can see facial cues and lip movement.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Under new ownership, Cowichan’s Isles prepare for 2020-21

The Isles have gone through some ups and downs in recent seasons

Cowichan Valley Regional District will reopen three arenas in August

Ice will go back in at Lake Cowichan, Cowichan Community Centre and Kerry Park

Business notes: Salt Spring Therapeutic Riding Association launches program for front-line workers

A sample of what’s happening in Cowichan’s business community

UPDATE: RCMP use spike belts to end car chase — man in custody

The driver was arrested at the scene a short distance from his vehicle

Motorcyclist airlifted after collision in Cobble Hill

Residents describe intersection of Telegraph and Hutchinson as “dangerous” and “problematic”

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

RCMP looking for missing teen in Comox Valley

Jenessa Shacter was last seen going for a walk in downtown Courtenay

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

T-Rex earns big bids at B.C. dino auction

Over 500 dino-themed lots sold to buyers from across North America

Most Read