DENVER (KDVR) — New research shows that your face mask could do more than just protect you from COVID-19.
With allergy season upon us, doctors say wearing a mask, which covers the nose and mouth, could help provide some relief for the 19.2 million American adults suffering from allergies.
“This is definitely the time where I’m having new patients come in — or some patients I haven’t seen in a couple years,” said Dr. Jessica Hui, a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver.
Scientists collected data from 215 nurses using surgical or N95 masks during a two-week period.
At the end of that time, researchers revealed that among the 44 nurses who suffered from the most severe type of allergies, about 40% reported less sneezing and runny and stuffy noses while wearing masks, according to the September report, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
Among the 91 nurses with moderate symptoms, 30% improved when they wore a surgical mask and 40% saw improvement when wearing an N95. Among the 80 nurses with mild symptoms, about 54% saw improvement while wearing a surgical or N95 mask, the study found.
According to researchers, cloth masks can be effective, too, especially since some pollen is substantially larger than the coronavirus. Studies show masks can filter common allergens, making them easier to block, reported the New York Times.
“I would guess that it would help,” Hui said of cloth masks. “Obviously pollen, the sizes are different depending on what the allergen is. The N95 certainly will kind of block a lot of that versus cloth masks that still have openings on the sides.”
The New York Times also reported that wearing a mask helped the nurses with seasonal allergies more than those with year-round symptoms.
Masks, however, did not help alleviate itchy eyes, the report found.
Hui recommends that allergy sufferers who are out and about protect their eyes by wearing glasses or sunglasses to block allergens.
Another COVID-similar practice that helps with allergies is cleaning surfaces in your home. Giving your pets a bath after they’ve spent time outside is also suggested.
“You run outside and you’re working out and when you come back in, I would change your clothes, get in the shower,” Hui said. “You have still have some of that pollen in your nasal passages and on your clothes. Showering and changing out of that will definitely help.”