What conditions could someone have that might make a face covering unsuitable? What alternatives do they have?
“COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a very common condition in older people, particularly in those who are smokers or have been smokers in the past. COPD gives people a cough and wheeze that gets worse in the winter. I know lots of people with COPD and they are perfectly comfortable wearing a face covering. There may be those with the condition who feel too choked when they’re wearing a face covering, so that would be a reason for not wearing one.
“There’s no reason at all, however, why someone couldn’t give it a go. If you have COPD or asthma or a mental health condition like anxiety, it may be that if you put it on for a few minutes while at home you’ll get used to it. I’m pretty claustrophobic myself and when I first put a covering on I didn’t like it, but I put it on for a few minutes at a time to teach my brain not to be so worried. That worked for me.
“It won’t work for everyone, though, and the last thing you want if you’re unable to wear a face covering is people coming up to you and shaming you. There’s a really good medical reason why you shouldn’t confront people who aren’t wearing a face covering and the reason is: you’re most likely to catch COVID-19 from someone when they’re talking or shouting close to you.
“If you approach someone who isn’t wearing a mask, they will almost certainly reply to you, perhaps angrily and at full volume, which means you’ve exposed yourself to a possible burst of virus. Therefore, if you see someone who isn’t wearing a face covering, give them the benefit of the doubt – don’t confront them and don’t antagonise them because if they’re quiet and not shouting it’s better than if they are.
“Another major group of people who are going to find masking difficult will be the cognitively impaired. Obviously not everyone with memory loss of cognitive issues will have problems wearing a face covering, but many will. Give it a go, but if the person really can’t understand what’s happening or can’t accept it, don’t force it.”