a woman laying in the cut out of a mask that is keeping the pollen away

Wearing a Mask For Outdoor Asthma Triggers

I don't know about you, but it seems that every time I reach into a pocket, purse, backpack, or glove compartment of my car I find a mask. At the start of the pandemic last March, I only had one mask, and now I have more than I can keep track of. It got me wondering if these masks could be helpful for others things besides preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Can a mask be helpful for outdoor asthma triggers?

Covering your face with a mask can be uncomfortable, but it can be helpful for preventing the spread of viruses. Besides this use, a mask can also possibly assist you in avoiding inhaling asthma triggers. Experiencing allergies to things such as spring pollen is annoying, but can also cause asthma flare-ups to occur.1

One study found that wearing a mask over your nose and mouth can help reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis; as many as 80 percent of people who have asthma also have allergic rhinitis. The study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, consisted of full-time nurses that wore masks, either a surgical mask or N95 respirator, who had allergic rhinitis. Prior to the study and wearing masks full-time, the nurses reported the symptoms and severity of their allergic rhinitis. The nurses then wore masks for 8-12 hours a day for 1 week straight. The results of the study showed that wearing a face mask has the potential to reduce the severity of allergic rhinitis symptoms in affected individuals, but more research needs to be completed.1

The right type of mask for pollen and pollutants

Prior to the pandemic, some people with allergies and asthma would already go outside wearing a mask on high pollen or pollutant days. Surgical masks can catch small particles floating in that air that measure around 3 micrometers and above; the smallest pollen grains are typically around 10 micrometers. Other types of medical masks, like N95 respirators, can be even more effective. Please note that the FDA warns that N95 respirators can cause people with chronic respiratory conditions to have a hard time breathing.2 Cloth masks, one of the most common masks worn during the pandemic, can still offer protection especially if you are using one with multiple layers.3

Long term cons to wearing a mask

After wearing a mask everywhere in public for the past year, I think most of us can agree that it is annoying and slightly uncomfortable. However, there are a few other side effects that should be noted about wearing a mask long-term. If you have a skin condition like eczema or acne, wearing a mask can cause these things to become worse.2 If your skin conditions have worsened after wearing a mask, then speak to your doctor about more permanent solutions to managing your allergies.

Conclusion

If you have an abundance of masks lying around, you might want to save them and keep them on hand. Most types of masks will offer a certain degree of protection from pollen on days where the count is high and may offer a reduction in allergic rhinitis symptoms. Keep in mind that wearing masks long-term may have a negative effect on skin conditions like eczema or acne, so this is something that should be monitored.

Do you wear a mask to protect you from pollen, dust, and other asthma triggers? Share your experience in the comments below.

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