Masks Can Reduce Allergy Symptoms
Masks can protect against more than COVID-19 for people who suffer from seasonal allergies
Wearing a mask has proven effective in curbing transmission of COVID-19. But can this routine, which has become an integral part of our daily lives since the outbreak of the pandemic, also alleviate allergy symptoms?
Researchers from the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University studied how much of a difference wearing a mask could make for allergy sufferers with mild, moderate and severe symptoms, and discovered that this practice can reduce the symptoms in some people.
The researchers collected data from 215 nurses who wore surgical masks or N95 masks over a two-week period. Among 44 of the nurses who had severe allergy symptoms, nearly 40% experiences less sneezing, runny nose and stuffy nose when they wore either of the two masks. Among the 91 nurses with moderate symptoms, 30 percent improved when they wore a surgical mask and 40 percent improved when they wore an N95 mask. Forty-three (approximately 54%) of the 80 nurses who had mild allergy symptoms felt their symptoms improved while wearing either of the two masks.
Mask use was also found to be more effective for nurses with seasonal allergies compared to those with symptoms year-round. The findings were reported in the September 2020 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
"During COVID-19 face masks gained normalcy in many countries. Masks not only reduced COVID transmission, but we also saw fewer cases of common cold and influenza. While allergen particles are a hundred times bigger than viruses, it is reasonable that our face mask filters such allergens and keeps them outside the respiratory system," says Dr. Amiel Dror, who led the study with Dr. Eyal Sela, of the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University. Additional participants included Dr. Eran Alon and colleagues from Sheba Medical Center and other institutions.
"While we all hope that we will defeat the pandemic sooner or later, people with allergies may still maintain casual use of face masks outside or around dust and mold, and other common potent allergens. While we see a significant improvement of allergic rhinitis symptoms among mask users, people with persistent symptoms are advised to check with their physicians regarding other possible treatments to alleviate their allergies," added Dror.
Though the research suggests that mask wearing can reduce allergy symptoms, the researchers say that further studies are needed to affirm the findings.