Despite Effects Such as Shortness of Breath, Most With Asthma Wear Masks to Protect From COVID-19

By Linda Carroll

November 29, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Most people with asthma experience discomfort wearing face masks but do so nonetheless to protect against COVID-19, according to a new U.S. study.

A survey of 501 adults with asthma finds that nearly 100% wore masks in public and two-thirds wore a mask for three or more hours a day, researchers report in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

The take-home message from the study is that "adults with asthma who responded to our survey supported wearing a mask in public places; they indicated that a mask protects them from COVID-19 and it also protects others," said Dr. Barbara Polivka of the University of Kansas School of Nursing. "They also indicated that they were more comfortable going into public places when others were also wearing a mask."

"Probably the most important recommendation that a lot of our participants noted was 'just wear it' as the mask can keep you safe from COVID-19," she told Reuters Health by email.

"We asked our participants what they would recommend to other adults with asthma," Dr. Polivka said. The answers included "using a mask that is comfortable and fits well, finding a safe place away from others where a 'mask break' can be taken, taking slow deep breaths while wearing a mask, taking medications as prescribed and keeping an inhaler close by and staying at home to minimize mask usage."

To take a closer look at mask wearing behaviors in adults, Dr. Polivka and her team turned to a group of adults with asthma who had previously responded to the online Global COVID-19 and Asthma Study (GCAS) REDCap survey, which addressed the impact of the disease on factors such as use of disinfectants and hand sanitizers and exposures to environmental tobacco smoke.

The researchers emailed the 712 respondents who had indicated a willingness to participate in future studies and asked them to complete the online Face Mask Use in Adults with Asthma survey, which addressed mask use during the pandemic.

Their analysis was based on data from 501 respondents, most of whom were white, college-educated women living in urban/suburban areas of the U.S. who owned their own home and had well-controlled asthma.

Almost all participants said they wore a mask in public (98%) and were more comfortable when store employees and patrons wore a mask (88% and 89%, respectively). Most wore cloth masks of at least two layers (65%), while 44% said they wore surgical/procedural masks.

Over half of the respondents who said they typically used an inhaler reported carrying one most or all of the time when wearing a mask. Among the 195 respondents who said they were required to wear a mask during work hours, 47% wore it for at least eight hours a day. Among those who wore glasses nearly half said their glasses fogged up most or all of the time.

Many of the respondents (84%) reported discomfort when wearing a mask, including warm/hot face (76%), trouble breathing (71%), itchy nose (65%), shortness of breath (60%), runny nose (53%), facial irritation/rash (47%), anxiety (43%), stuffy nose (42%), wheezing (32%), headache (30%), trouble concentrating (30%), itchy eyes (23%), watery eyes (22%), drowsiness/dizziness (21%), and facial pain (21%).

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3cJGILg The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, online November 15, 2021.

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