While face masks protect us from the spread of COVID, they can be challenging to breathe in. For people with asthma, the challenge is even greater. Although they report difficulty breathing and discomfort while wearing a face mask, most people with asthma still use them in public places during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study finds. But how do they do it? Keep reading for tips wearing a mask if you have asthma.
University of Illinois Chicago researchers conducted an online survey of more than 500 adults with asthma. They found that 84% reported discomfort and 75% reported trouble breathing or shortness of breath at least occasionally while wearing a face mask to guard against COVID-19.
Still, “the majority of those surveyed said about masks, ‘Just wear it,'” study co-author Dr. Sharmilee Nyenhuis said in a university news release. Nyenhuis is an associate professor in the College of Medicine.
Poorer asthma control and wearing a mask for longer periods of time were associated with more symptoms while wearing a mask, according to the study. The findings were published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
As well as answering survey questions, participants were asked open-ended questions about their experiences wearing masks and their recommendations for other people with asthma.
In that part of the study, 45% of participants said they had problems breathing and increased coughing when wearing a mask; 39% said they had no change in their asthma when wearing a mask, and 2% said their asthma symptoms improved when wearing a mask, likely because the mask filtered out pollen and pollutants that trigger respiratory distress, according to the researchers.
About 5% of the participants said they don’t always wear a mask.
Tips for wearing a mask with asthma
The study participants offered suggestions about mask-wearing for others with asthma. They included: