At this point, many of us are so used to the sight of face masks everywhere that a person who is not wearing one stands out.  It’s easy to feel anger toward someone who is out in public and not wearing a mask, but before you get angry, know that in some cases, a person shouldn’t wear a mask, according to the CDC.

The CDC has stated that people under two years old, people who are unconscious or incapacitated, people who are physically unable to remove their masks and people who have breathing problems should not wear masks.  Today, we’ll be talking about the last category, as many people struggle with breathing problems for a variety of reasons. While there are many options to buy KN95 masks online, not everyone will be able to breathe comfortably while wearing one.

The CDC’s wording regarding this is quite vague.  There are many issues that can contribute to breathing problems and breathing problems can range from very mild to severe.  This means that people with breathing problems must decide for themselves whether or not a mask would be appropriate for them.

Also, remember that wearing a mask won’t necessarily protect you from getting infected, as they are worn to prevent spreading the virus to others.  Therefore, not wearing a mask won’t necessarily make you more vulnerable than the rest of the population.

And, lastly, the FDA and WHO have been even less straightforward about the do’s and don’ts of wearing a face cover, so bear this in mind when looking for more specific information.

Common Causes for Breathing Problems That Exempt People from Wearing Masks

There are many different reasons why a person may have difficulty breathing.  A common reason is asthma, a condition that affects a person’s airways.  If a person has asthma, wearing a mask can indeed exacerbate symptoms, which is why it should be avoided.

Other common causes are COPD, emphysema, and current infections like pneumonia.  Obviously, if your breathing problems are caused by a current COVID-19 infection, you should not be out in public at all, and so a mask is unnecessary.

But, things get more complicated when you consider breathing difficulties that are caused by non-respiratory issues.  For instance, those who struggle with anxiety attacks tend to have difficulty breathing.  There are also some digestive disorders that can interfere with lung capacity due to the fact that the esophagus and stomach are close to the lungs.  Are these people also exempt from wearing a mask?  The CDC does not get into specifics, so you must use your own discretion.  And, of course, you can speak with your doctor, as he or she can tell you whether or not you should wear a mask.

It’s also worth noting that if you already have moderate to severe breathing issues, you will likely have more severe symptoms should you catch the virus.  Therefore, you should avoid being out in public as much as possible, whether you are able to wear a mask or not.

Ways to Protect Others Without a Mask

If you cannot wear a mask, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still employ methods for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.  By practicing the other social distancing measures, such as avoiding gatherings, not touching your face, disinfecting your hands and staying six feet away from others, you can still do your part in slowing the spread.

Know Your Local Laws Regarding Mask-Wearing

While the CDC exempts certain people from wearing masks, many states have strict laws about when you must wear a mask.  This means that while the CDC may allow you to not wear one, you may still not be able to engage in certain activities, such as going to a grocery store, unless you have a mask on. 

Know the Risks Depending on the Circumstances

Remember that it’s far more important to wear a mask when you’re indoors or in a crowd than if you’re outdoors and away from people.  In other words, if you have breathing problems and cannot wear a mask, you can still safely go for a walk around your neighborhood as long as you’re not within six feet of others.

Final Thoughts

While the CDC urges people to wear a face covering whenever they are out in public, there are some people who are exempt from this guideline.  If you have breathing difficulties, you are not required to wear a mask, as doing so could make your problem worse.  Instead, practice the other social distancing guidelines, and you should be fine.  

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