Tips for Wearing a Face Mask with Asthma

The Public Health Agency of Canada currently recommends that Canadians wear non-medical face masks while in public spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained – such as on public transit, or at the grocery store.

Be sure to check your provincial or territorial authority for up-to-date guidance.

Wearing a face mask is NOT a substitute for physical distancing or frequent handwashing. Wearing a non-medical face mask is an extra measure that can be taken to protect those around you. When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask can reduce the spread of their own infectious respiratory droplets.

Make sure you wear your mask properly. It should cover both your nose and mouth. If your mask gets soiled or wet, be sure to wash and dry it before wearing it again. You can read information about appropriate use of non-medical masks, and how to properly place, remove and clean a non-medical mask from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The vast majority of people with asthma can wear a non-medical mask  safely and are recommended to do so. If you are unable to wear a non-medical mask without experiencing breathing issues, do not wear a mask. Instead, make sure you are practicing physical distancing by maintaining a 2-metre distance. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to go over your Asthma Action Plan and review your asthma symptoms and control. Your healthcare provider may suggest or ask you to consider other options to protect yourself.

Each individual’s asthma is unique, and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Adjust to wearing a non-medical mask when you have asthma:

  • Wear a mask around your home for approximately 20 minutes to give yourself time to adjust to how it feels.
  • There is no recommended “best type of mask” for people with asthma. Experiment with different types of mask materials and styles. Some masks fit more snugly than others, and some materials may feel more comfortable.
  • Plan your trip in advance by writing a list of items/errands, so you complete your trip as efficiently as possible.
  • Try to go out during cooler periods of the day.
  • Do not share face masks.
  • Always carry a spare mask with you.

Asthma Control

If you have trouble wearing a non-medical mask or are unable to wear one it is important to contact your healthcare provider to review your asthma control.

Proper asthma control is key to staying healthy with asthma and preventing possibly life-threatening asthma attacks. Everyone with asthma should be able to achieve good asthma control. If you’re having trouble staying symptom-free or have any of the signs of poor asthma control listed below, we highly recommend speaking with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Signs of Poor Asthma Control:

  • Frequent breathing difficulties, including coughing or wheezing most days
  • Asthma impacting sleep; if asthma wakes you up at night, your asthma is most likely poorly controlled
  • Inability to exercise without experiencing breathing difficulties
  • Relying on the reliever (rescue) inhaler more than 3 times per week. You can find out if you’re relying too much on your blue reliever inhaler by taking this short test
  • Severe breathing difficulty or inability to wear a mask
  • Recent asthma attack or hospitalization
  • You frequently miss work or school due to asthma

What To Do If Your Asthma Is Poorly Controlled

If your asthma is poorly controlled you need to speak with your healthcare provider. It’s vital that you take your asthma seriously and recognize when your symptoms aren’t properly controlled. Over time, poorly controlled asthma can cause permanent damage to your airways. This is called ‘airway remodeling’. It is important to have proper treatment for your asthma to avoid this permanent damage from occurring.

If your asthma is not well controlled, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms as soon as possible. You can gain control of your asthma by:

  • Taking your controller medication as prescribed to minimize symptoms and reduce inflammation in the airways
  • Avoiding your personal asthma triggers as much as possible
  • Carrying your reliever (rescue) medication with you at all times 
  • Working with your healthcare provider to create an Asthma Action Plan and following it
  • Discussing your asthma with your healthcare provider on a regular basis so that your asthma never becomes uncontrolled and your treatments can be adjusted if necessary

COVID-19 & Asthma

You can learn more about Asthma Canada’s recommendations for COVID-19 and asthma here.

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The Asthma Canada team, including our Certified Respiratory Educators are working tirelessly to provide the most up to date education and support regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) to the asthma community.

Canadians with asthma are depending on us now more than ever. We are only able to do the work that we do thanks to the generosity of incredible people like you. If you are able to, please consider a donation to support our mission during this time. Thank you!