As another pandemic spring arrives, there may be another reason to keep wearing those masks: seasonal allergies. According to the New York Times, “studies show masks also can be effective at filtering common allergens, which typically float around in much larger sizes, making them easier to block. Pine tree pollen, for example, is about 800 times larger than the coronavirus, said Dr. David Lang, an allergist at Cleveland Clinic.
Israeli researchers recently studied how much difference wearing a mask could make for allergy sufferers with mild, moderate, and severe symptoms. Using data collected from 215 nurses who used surgical masks or N95 masks during a two-week period, they found that among the 44 nurses with severe allergy symptoms, nearly 40 percent experienced less sneezing, runny nose, and stuffy nose when they wore either a surgical or N95 mask. Among the 91 nurses with moderate symptoms, 30 percent improved when they wore a surgical mask; that rose to 40 percent when they wore an N95.
Among the 80 nurses who started the study with mild symptoms, 43 nurses, or about 54 percent, felt their symptoms improved while wearing a surgical or N95 mask, said Dr. Amiel Dror, a physician-scientist at Galilee Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine and the lead author on the study.
Protection varies from mask to mask, depending on the fit and, for cloth masks, the weave of the fabric. And unless you wear a mask at all times, you may still be affected by indoor allergens such as dust mites or pollen carried through open windows on spring breezes.
Tips For Allergy Season
Here are some more tips to reduce your symptoms during allergy season.
- Protect your eyes. Dr. Lang recommends people who suffer from allergies wear glasses or sunglasses when they’re outside, which helps block allergens like tree pollen from making direct contact with eyes.
- Wash and change your mask frequently. ‘The last thing you want is allergen getting trapped in it,’ Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist, and immunologist at N.Y.U. Langone Health said.
- Find a mask that doesn’t irritate your skin. Choosing the right mask for an allergy-prone wearer can also be important. People with sensitive skin may react to dyes in some fabric masks and should use perfume-free detergents. Or choose a surgical or medical grade mask, which is less likely to irritate the skin. ‘My allergy sufferers have very sensitive skin because the same critters that make them sneeze or cough also can irritate their skin,’ Dr. Parikh said.
Seasonal allergies can be treated through a combination of allergy management and allergy medications. Your specialist may recommend treating your acute seasonal allergies with over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, or a carefully managed combination of both. For additional information on Allergy Testing and Treatment visit our website.