Masking may help prevent severe allergies this spring

Masking can prevent more than COVID-19 from spreading this spring: Allergic rhinitis symptoms have shown to be significantly reduced with facemask usage during the pandemic.

spring mask.2Masking can prevent more than COVID-19 from spreading this spring: Allergic rhinitis symptoms have shown to be significantly reduced with facemask usage during the pandemic.Masking can help reduce the spread of aerosol-based viruses, and as the spring flowers and trees begin to bloom, doctors with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Otolaryngology say those masks can also help prevent severe spring allergy issues.

Do-Yeon Cho, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology, says many patients with allergic rhinitis from pollens are doing well because they have stayed indoors, and when they go outside, they wear masks.

“A study that came out in 2020 showed that allergic rhinitis symptoms among nurses had been significantly reduced with facemask usage during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cho said.

Cho says any face covering can significantly reduce the number of pollens and allergens that may enter your nose and mouth. However, he says it is important not to touch the front side of the mask when removing it and to not flip the mask when reusing it. 

Symptoms from allergic rhinitis include sneezing, runny nose and congestion.

In addition to masking, Cho says there are several options to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with spring allergies. 

First, identify your allergens, and if you are allergic to spring pollens, limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. 

“Most weather reports during allergy season give a pollen count,” he said. “Using high-efficiency particulate absorbance, or HEPA, air filters during allergy season can reduce exposure to allergens.” 

Taking allergy medication before pollen season begins prevents the body from releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause allergic symptoms. Cleanliness is essential in preventing allergic reactions, especially bathing and shampooing daily before going to bed.

“Change clothes and wash your nose with saline when you come inside the house,” Cho said. “Wash your bedding and clothes in hot, soapy water, and dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.”

spring mask.3Do-Yeon Cho, M.D.Cho says tree pollens are typically the most rampant in Alabama and the Southeast during the spring.

“Once temperatures get warmer, dormant trees bounce back to life and release pollen into the air,” Cho said. “Some common culprits include birch, cedar and walnut, and the season could last through mid-May. 

Once the spring rains start, Cho says rain showers can wash the pollen away, keeping it from flying through the air. However, humidity from the rain can cause similar symptoms for those with allergies to dust and mold. 

To learn more about allergies and treatment, or to schedule an appointment with one of UAB’s allergy specialists or otolaryngologists, click here.