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Face masks and sensory issues.

we have to wear masks in school now because or coronavirus. i have sensory processing disorder so the feeling of the mask is very overwhelming for me. we arent able to have them off in school or else we cant go in. i really enjoy school though. is there a way i can stop the feeling?

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Sam

Hi there,

During the pandemic we’re all being asked to wear masks at various times - such as when we go out in public places like shops, public transport and schools. Most people won't have any problems doing this but masks can be difficult for some people to wear due to disabilities and health conditions.

There’s a lot of wrong information about masks online. They don't stop you breathing or getting oxygen and they don't make you breathe in more carbon dioxide. Remember that people like surgeons have always had to wear masks in their jobs, sometimes for hours at a time and this has never been a problem.

When the pandemic first began the official advice was that there was no evidence for masks helping to contain the virus, but that advice has changed because evidence shows masks are a really good way of stopping the virus spreading. If you can wear a mask, you should - but this can cause a lot of problems for some people.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) means that the senses are over-sensitive and many things can be painful or distressing. Someone with SPD might feel pain when their skin is touched, or hear quiet noises as very loud. This means that for some people wearing a mask is actually painful and very difficult to do. There’re other reasons why wearing a mask might be difficult for some people - if they have very severe breathing problems for example.

If your SPD is making it hard for you to wear a mask the first thing to do is find the best mask possible.  You can try a few different types and materials to find the one which is more suitable for you. If you can't find a mask that covers your face comfortably, you could try asking if a face shield is okay to wear. These shields aren’t touching your face and they might be more comfortable for you..

Once you find a mask that works for you then you need to get used to wearing it. This is best done by wearing it at home where it's safe to take it off it you need to. Start small, wearing it for a few minutes at a time and keep wearing it for longer and longer. Try and distract yourself with other things whilst wearing it to take your mind off the uncomfortable sensations.

Finally, talk to your school about this and what you need them do  to help you can go back to school in a comfortable way. It might mean that you're allowed to go outside every 30 minutes so you can have five minutes without wearing a mask. If you talk to them you might be able to come up with a plan that works for you.

I hope that this has helped - remember you can always talk to one of our counsellors if you need. You can also share your experience with other young people on our message boards and see how others with health problems are coping with having to wear a mask.

Thanks for your letter, take care.

Sam

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