Wearing Masks With COPD

Last updated: September 2021

As the COVID pandemic continues to surge, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear face masks in public. But if you have COPD, covering your mouth and nose can be challenging.

To learn more about how you are handling the recommendation, we asked our Facebook community: Who here is wearing a mask because of COVID-19? Any tips or suggestions?

We received more than 150 responses to these questions! Here are some of the things you shared.

No, I just cannot breathe

Some of you are not wearing a mask due to the challenges it adds to breathing. COPD already compromises the ability to breathe, and some said adding a mask makes it too hard.

“I can’t breathe in these masks! It’s horrible!”

“I don’t wear a mask when going out, I can’t breathe with it on. I use oxygen.”

“Not unless I have to, like at the hospital, and I didn’t cover my nose. I get so dizzy with them.”

“I’m sad to say I don’t. I can’t breathe in it. And I have anxiety so badly.”

It is hard, but I do it

Nearly everyone shared that they struggle with wearing a mask. However, many of you wear one to keep yourselves safe, but limit how often you go out and where you go.

“I do in public. It’s hard to breathe for long, and I get hot really fast. I try to go places that I won’t be at very long or have someone pick things up for me.”

“I wear a mask in public. I try not to go out in public.”

“Going out very rarely, but I wear a mask in any place with people.”

“I figured out I did better with a mask while wearing oxygen. Otherwise it is too difficult for me to breathe.”

Staying home

Many of you are making use of delivery services or curb-side pick-up to avoid contact with people. Others are seeing doctors through telemedicine appointments. This reduces the times wearing a mask is necessary.

“I order groceries online to pick up, and my doctor was able to have a phone visit with me.”

“I mostly do grocery pick up and Amazon. It is very difficult to breathe with the mask on.”

“My rule for the last few months has been: If it can’t be delivered, I don’t need it.”

“I have stayed completely in my apartment for 86 days and have not even gone outside my front door. My gut feeling at this time is: Don’t go outside.”

Different types of face coverings

Many mentioned that trying different types of masks has been helpful. Sometimes it takes some experimenting to find what is best for you.

“I wear a gaiter. It is much easier to breathe in.”

“I have tried a lot of different types of masks and the only one I can wear for any length of time has a breathing valve. It gets rid of a lot of the hot, humid air.”

“I am wearing a face shield. It is so much better than a mask. I can actually breathe normally with it!”

“I wear glasses and oxygen, so it was impossible to hang the face mask on my ears. A friend shared with me the “button” idea and it works great!” [Attaching buttons to the frames of the glasses for holding the mask elastic]

“I have trouble breathing with a simple mask, but the ones with the circular filters seem to be easier for me.”

“I wear a mask of two pieces of cotton with elastic for ears. I can breathe through it. It just takes a little adjustment, like with a CPAP.”

A tip from Leon, one of our respiratory therapists

“When I find that I am wearing a mask (N95, surgical, or bandana), on the job (professionally), or in public, as a civilian, there are times when I am experiencing similar difficulties. When this happens, I will breathe through my nose and exhale through pursed lips. While exhaling through pursed lips, I directed the flow of the exhaled gas downward. For me, this helps to keep my airways open (as pursed-lip breathing is designed to do), and facilitates the next inhalation.”

Thank you to everyone who shared about their experiences and tips. We appreciate you being part of this community.

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