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

BCHL: Bulldogs trade veteran defenceman, acquire new players during offseason

Grayson Valente suited up for three seasons with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs

ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre garden opening June 16

Virtual art exhibits and gift shop to come

A LOOK BACK: maritime history of Alberni Inlet

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with Alberni Valley Museum

EDITORIAL: It’s time for Canada to admit to its own racism

Make no mistake, racism exists in Canada.

UPDATE: Highway 4 reopens after police incident near Port Alberni

Highway between Port Alberni and the West Coast was briefly closed in both directions

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

Fraser Valley dad rescues two young daughters after truck plunges into lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

Gold River ready to welcome visitors and restart local businesses

In contrast to single-industry remote communities, Gold River’s diversified economy might help it better survive after reopening

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Search and rescue crews help locate 62-year-old Nanoose Bay mountain biker

RCMP: Man got lost on trail and did right thing by calling for assistance

Most Read