For Those with Asthma, Masks are Critical During the Pandemic
By JANELLE HOM
While there has been much controversy amid mask mandates, doctors and medical professionals agree that masks play a critical role in defending the public against the spread of coronavirus. This role is amplified for people living with asthma, as the chronic lung disease is listed on the CDC’s list of conditions that are at risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19.
Jolene (Jojo) O’Neal, a well-known Orlando radio personality and founder of the Let’s Kick Asthma Foundation, has lived with asthma for more than 15 years. As a result of her asthma, O’Neal spent many years in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has sheltered in place to protect herself from the virus. She believes that the general public needs more information on the importance of masks, so more people comply to protect themselves and others.
"As an asthma patient, I already know what it feels like to not be able to breathe well. I hate to hear of anyone going through that struggle. If wearing a mask in public can help stop the spread of this virus that's known to attack the respiratory system, I would ask that everyone please comply so that we can all stay Covid-free,” said O’Neal.
One common misunderstanding is that people with lung diseases like asthma or COPD are unable to wear masks because it makes it difficult to breathe. In fact, masks are meant to be breathed through and do not cause low oxygen levels. If wearing a mask is uncomfortable, the American Lung Association offers tips to help you get used to wearing a mask.
Another reason that O’Neal believes that people don’t wear masks or comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines is that they haven’t been personally touched by the disease.
“It's heartbreaking to hear healthcare workers speak of their firsthand encounters with covid patients,” she said. “And God forbid if the disease touches someone you know personally, even a family member, it really hits home. The people I know who've had COVID-19 affect their loved ones, tend to take it more seriously. They take extra precautions and follow all the safety guidelines currently in place, including wearing a mask in public"
For people with asthma, O’Neal suggests always wearing a mask in public and:
- Keep your distance from others and do what you can to protect yourself.
- Be creative in ways to be spatially distant but still stay social.
- Stay in contact with your medical professional about how to keep your asthma well-controlled.
- Connect with the LetsKick Asthma Foundation for help and support during this challenging time at www.LetsKickAsthma.org, or on Facebook and Instagram @LetsKickAsthma. Join the monthly educational support group on Zoom.
The American Lung Association urges people with asthma, as well as other lung diseases, to take extra precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on COVID-19, visit Lung.org/COVID-19.
Janelle Hom who serves as the Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Florida – Central Area has been with the organization since 2008. Janelle holds a Master of Arts in Political Policy and Analysis from UCF and a Bachelor of Arts in Government and World Affairs from the University of Tampa. She also holds her Certificate in Non Profit Management from the Crummer Business School of Rollins College.
Janelle serves on the Florida Board of Respiratory Care whose function is to ensure that every Respiratory Therapist practicing in this state meets minimum requirements for safe practice.
Janelle is a Florida native who grew up in the St. Petersburg area and has been an Orlando resident since 2007. She can be reached at Janelle.Hom@lung.org