Masks have seen their fair share of pros and cons over the past year in the pandemic era. On the one hand, they are proven barriers for slowing the spread of COVID-19; on the other, they can muffle speech and make communication difficult for those with hearing loss.
Here’s another pro we perhaps didn’t see coming, right in time for another troublesome allergy season—recent data shows that masks can reduce a wearer’s allergy symptoms, blocking a significant amount of all the usual pollen suspects enough to provide relief.
A team of Israeli researchers studied over 215 nurses with varying degrees of allergies who used surgical and N95 masks over a two-week period. The team found that among the 44 nurses with severe allergy symptoms, nearly 40% experienced less sneezing, runny nose and stuffy nose when they wore either a surgical or N95 mask.
Meanwhile, for the participating nurses with less severe, or ‘moderate,’ allergy symptoms, 30% reported an improvement due to mask use. For those nurses that fell under the ‘mild’ symptomatic category, the improvement percentage went up to 54%.
Though the Israeli research team urged that more studies are needed and that nurses could have experienced fewer allergy symptoms due to other factors, such as social distancing measures and less exposure to allergens, for the 19.2 million Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, this is promising news.
In other words, a simple cloth mask—an accessory many of us have made part of our ‘new normal’ wardrobe—can’t hurt as another tool to combat seasonal allergies.
Keep in mind best practices if you’re going to use a mask as an allergy strategy—choosing a nonirritating fabric and washing it regularly for cloth options, rotating out N95s—and, of course, knowing that your eyes are still unprotected and susceptible to symptoms.
And should your allergies still cause you trouble, remember Pinnacle ENT Associates is here to help! Find relief today by requesting an appointment with our elite allergy team to develop an allergy strategy that works for you.