Mandatory face masks even more dangerous for asthmatics

Medical professionals have warned that people with chronic asthma who use face masks, especially the surgical and clothing type, are exposing themselves to hypoxia.

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level.

The World Health Organisation described asthma as a common lung condition that causes sporadic breathing difficulties, adding that its strongest risk factors are inhaled substances and particles that may provoke allergic reactions or irritate the airways.

Speaking exclusively with PUNCH HealthWise, Senior Registrar, Paediatric Department of Massey Street Children Hospital, Lagos, Dr. Mary Uche-Iwuh, explained that, except for social gatherings, asthmatics may not necessarily need to wear face masks.

“They may have to wear face masks at gatherings as well as ensure hand washing and avoiding touching the mouth, nose and eye. But when they are alone in their car or room, they can remove the face mask,” she said.

President of Atayese Health Network, Dr. Adeolu Olusodo, also shared this view.

He said someone living with lung-related diseases that demand high level oxygen supply should not be seen using face mask for long because masks reduce oxygen supply to the brain after a period.

“It is preferable they have a handkerchief to use any time they nurse fear of being compromised.

“It is advisable for asthmatics and others with related conditions to stay away as much as possible from the public during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“They should also be discouraged from going to hospitals for now except when very necessary,” he cautioned.

Another physician, Dr. Olusola Adeyelu, however, argued that people living with asthma should not be denied wearing of face mask.

“They are like every other person but with marginal increase in risk.

“On the other hand, if afflicted by COVID-19, the proportion of asthmatics that will die will outnumber regular patients.

“I think they should just reduce unnecessary movement into enclosures,” he said.

Adeyelu, a pulmonologist with the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, counselled that people with the condition should further be encouraged to avoid wearing cloth or surgical masks, adding that they should, instead, opt for biodegradable masks like N95 (FFP series) since both sides are protected.

“Masks do not protect the wearer but the other party because it reduces the quantity of organisms spreadable,” he observed.

Meanwhile, the founder of Asthma and Chest Foundation, Prof. Gregory Erhabor, said the fundamental basis for using masks was to prevent those who are infected with the novel coronavirus from infecting the community.

He said it was imperative to wear face masks because some people can be COVID-19 carriers without being symptomatic.

“For asthmatics, they could react to some of the materials used for making the masks, which could serve as irritants to their airway and possibly provoke an (allergic) attack. This could be idiosyncratic and patients may react in different ways.

“Secondly, some asthmatics can be claustrophobic and if they are also breathless, putting on a tight-fitted mask will worsen their condition.

“Thirdly, if asthmatics who have moderate-to-severe asthma put on masks, it may result in hypoxia, with subsequent development of difficulty in breathing,” he said.

The professor of medicine recommended that asthmatics should be given priority in testing for COVID-19, stressing that if they test negative, wearing a mask is not of import for them.

“In these days of COVID-19, asthmatics should stay indoors as much as possible, avoid irritants, and avoid things that could trigger their condition.

“They should also be on their regular, daily anti-inflammatory medications and use the rescue medications when necessary.

“In case they have to go outdoors, social distancing is preferable than putting on a mask.

“If masks are made compulsory, they should have a letter from their physician indicating reasons why masks will be uncomfortable for them.

“If they have to put it on, they should wear it sparingly and stay more indoors,” he urged.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x