NEW YORK, NY (CBS Newspath) – About 25 million Americans suffer with seasonal allergies. But some are reporting they feel better than they have in previous seasons, and doctors think a COVID prevention measure could be behind the relief.
Ben and Cherie Rosen’s seasonal allergies are so severe their plans often revolve around the daily pollen count. “[My] eyes are very itchy, sometimes it’s even hard to breathe,” says Cherie. “Sneezing, coughing, and I have allergic asthma as well,” adds Ben.
But the couple says they’ve noticed some changes this spring. “It’s hard for me to speak sometimes just because the allergies are so bad. And I haven’t had any of that so far this year,” Cherie says.
Some studies suggest mask-wearing may be playing a role in alleviating allergy symptoms. Israeli researchers looked at data on nurses who wore masks for two weeks. Forty percent with severe allergies reported less symptoms when they wore a mask – 54% with mild allergies said they felt symptoms improved.
“It almost acts like a barrier between you and the pollen. When you’re outside, it can even protect against indoor allergens if you wear a mask indoors while you’re working or what have you – dust mites, mold,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, Allergist and Immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network.
Dr. Parikh says she tells patients to change clothes and shower to avoid bringing pollen into the house, so the same thing applies for masks. “Keep it clean because you don’t want to keep putting that same mask that might have pollen on it on your face every day. You should be washing your mask frequently regardless,” says Dr. Parikh.
Ben and Cherie say even a little bit of relief is a good thing. “I don’t know if the mask has contributed to it, but I know overall, I feel like I’ve had much less allergy attacks than I’ve had in past years,” Cherie says.
The couple makes sure to take their medications and also gets allergy and asthma shots to help. Another way to reduce allergy symptoms is to wear sunglasses to block allergens like pollen from getting in the eyes.