The UK Government strongly recommends that face coverings are worn in all public places where keeping your distance from others isn’t possible. However, someone living with TSC may find that wearing a mask is distressing or impossible due to how TSC affects them.
In the context of the coronavirus outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings or use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering that securely fits around the side of the face. Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment), which should be reserved for a limited number of settings.
Depending on where you live in the UK, it might be mandatory to wear face masks in different public settings, such as on public transport, in hospitals or in shops. Guidance on where it is or isn’t mandatory to wear a face covering is changing regularly, with the latest guidance available here.
In situations where face masks are mandatory, exemptions and reasonable circumstances could mean that someone does not need to wear a face covering. This includes:
- Exemption based on age. In England children under 11, in Scotland children under 5, and in Northern Ireland – children under 13 are exempt
- Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause the person severe distress
- Scotland’s guidance goes further than other nations, stating: Individual discretion should be applied in use of face coverings for children. For example, children with breathing difficulties or disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering
- If a person relies on lip reading to communicate
- If a person needs to eat, drink or take medication for health reasons
For the TSC community, someone affected by TSC may therefore be exempt from wearing a face covering if it could cause severe mental and/or physical distress, such as due to living with autism, LAM or facial angiofibromas. The TSA is working hard to further clarify the situation, whilst also looking at ways to help those unable to wear a face covering to show that they are exempt.