At most stores and public places you visit, there are most likely signs reminding you that you should be wearing a mask to protect yourself and those around you. And rightfully so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have consistently emphasized how essential face masks are in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. However, not always are these face coverings safe. As it turns out, there are certain groups of people who shouldn’t wear face masks due to risks unrelated to the disease.
In a FAQ about masks, the CDC commented on this matter, stating: “Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than two years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.” In these cases, as they note, a mask could do more harm than good. Explaining how masks could be dangerous for children under the end of two, Professor of Nursing Science at Widener University, Darrell Spurlock, Jr., Ph.D., said: “[they] have smaller, less rigid airways than older children and adults.” Spurlock also noted that their “physical strength to correct an issue, like a mask that was tied too tightly and slipped down around the neck.” Additionally, masks prevent parents or caregivers from being able to observe a child’s breathing status.
For those who already have difficulty breathing, a mask can make it even more challenging which can lead to further issues. However, Leann Poston, MD, points out that people who suffer from conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at a higher risk for developing complications from the coronavirus. So, with both wearing and not wearing a mask posing some risk, Poston advices that those individuals “stay home if possible.” Poston also suggests trying different styles of masks to see which one is easiest to breathe through and said that even a looser mask is better than nothing. People who are unable to remove masks on their own are facing similar dangers, but potentially even more serious, as suffocation is possible. Please remain safe and look out for yourself.