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

Spardell Trailer Park residents left without running water for three days

Multiple residents told The Free Press it was an ongoing, seemingly endless problem

Sparwood’s Causeway Bay Hotel reports COVID-positive guest

The hotel manager said guests who ate at the Gateway Restaurant at the same time do not need to be tested

Mugshots Cafe is revived via new ownership

The cafe was purchased from its previous owner on August 1

City of Fernie issues water upgrade updates

City changes include construction, water restrictions, and a water quality advisory

Business Beat

Kaitlyn Poirier joins ET Hair Salon

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Large missing python found ssssafe in Victoria after being on the lam for weeks

The snake was located more than six kilometres from where it went missing

B.C. announces multi-year plan to double treatment beds for youth with addiction

This will bring the total number of new beds specific to those 12 to 24 years old to 247 province-wide

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Most Read