Last updated on 22/07/2020

Updated 11/8/21

It might not have the forceful furrowed brow of a stink eye, but a ‘side-eye’ can certainly sting. It’s that sideways stare from a stranger, friend, or colleague that screams, ‘I’m judging you when you’re not doing something socially appropriate. 

Right now, it’s not being able to wear a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic if you live in an area where it’s required.  We’d like to prepare you that ‘side-eye’ has the potential to graduate into verbal oversharing from strangers, which can be very confronting. But what? Who wouldn’t wear a mask in a pandemic? 

Let us enlighten you. 

For some people with asthma wearing a mask can be problematic. The good news is, states that require people to wear face masks in certain situations provide exemptions for people with a medical condition that makes wearing a face mask unsuitable. This might include a physical illness such as asthma, mental illness or disability. Find out more about face mask rules here: 

For everyone who is able to wear a face mask, they should follow public advice to do so. This includes people with asthma who are able to wear a mask without it causing breathing difficulties. Some people with asthma have even reported their asthma is better when wearing a mask! Theyappreciate the security that comes with wearing a mask and the humidification of the air they breathe. Like all things with asthma, it’s not one size fits all. 

The main benefit of wearing a mask is to prevent the transmission of the virusbetweenpeople, by blocking droplets spread frompeople who have the virus to others. Many people with Coronavirus can feel well and not be aware they have it.Wearing a mask can help stop transmission and it does offer some protection for the mask wearer. 

We  encourage you to speak to your doctor about your health condition if you feel you fall into an exempt category. For asthma, it might be a sign your asthma control needs improving. Or there could be face coverings that you would feel more comfortable wearing. Your doctor might work with you to solve the issues you face wearing a mask. 

For everyone else, we should all hold back our judgement when we notice people who aren’t wearing one as there’s likely to be a good explanation for it. It may really affect their wellbeing.   

It’s highly likely that people not wearing a mask, can’t wear a mask, and already feelawkwardabout that. So, don’t make it worse by judging them with side-eye. 

If you live in an area where face masks are mandated and you find wearing a face mask is problematic with your asthma, here’s what you can do: 

  • You can talk to your doctor about your asthma. They might be able to help improve your asthma control to a point where you can wear a mask, or may have some suggestions to help solve your face mask difficulties.  
  • You can ask for a Telehealth appointment to speak with your doctor on the phone, and online pharmacy ordering to get your medicines 
  • You can ask your friends and/or family to help you with your shopping or make use of online ordering to reduce your need to go out without a mask. 
  • You can check out our blog on tips to ease into wearing a face mask. 
  • You can share this blog around to help with public understanding. 

Otherwise, you might just need to be ready for side-eye, and the odd person who steps over the line.   

And if you’re feeling bold, you can say – I have asthma, and wearing a mask affects my breathing, so I’m exempt, but I’m glad you can wear one. 


In places where masks are mandatory, there are fines if you’re not wearing a mask and you don’t fall into any exemption category. 

In NSW as of 22/07/2021, if you are claiming an exemption you must have written evidence from a registered health practitioner (such as your doctor) or NDIS provider or have a statuary declaration stating that you have a condition or disability that makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable for you. Currently, NSW is the only state to require written proof of exemption. For more clarification see: 


CheckoutAsthma Australia’s websitefor information on how to manage a mask. 

Head to this page on facemask requirements in your state or territory. 

Call our Asthma Educators on1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462). 


For those people who are able to do so, wearing a mask in public could be a critical contribution to make to get back on top of this wicked virus.  

If you have asthma but are able to wear a mask, please do. 

If you are unable to wear a mask, please be safe and follow our tips above.