Why COVID-19 face masks might help avoid seasonal allergies


COVID-19 has changed the stigma around wearing face masks to protect against unwanted particles in the air that we might be breathing in.

As we head into the second spring of the pandemic, wearing these masks can not only help us stay safe from harmful viruses, but also dreadful seasonal allergies.

With an increase in outdoor activities due to COVID-19 safety protocols and the weather warming up, many people are suffering with seasonal allergies more than they are used to. "I have recommended that people where a mask while they are outside for the next few months while the pollen count is high," says Dr. Johnathan Matz, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with LifeBridge Health.

While highly protective masks like N95 masks are commonly worn these days to protect against the spread of COVID-19, a much simpler mask will help relieve your allergy symptoms. "The more layered the mask, the better. However, pollen will be filtered out by even just a cloth mask," says Matz. He explains that "pollen grains are usually between 20 and 50 microns," which is much larger than the typical particles that a face mask is built to filter out.

Many people might find that their allergy symptoms are only present during certain activities in environments where pollen is abundant. Matz says if you experience allergy symptoms from pollen, you should wear a mask during activities such as mowing your lawn. "The pollen is laying on your lawn and it's getting kicked up when you're cutting the grass," says Matz. This practice was recommended even before COVID-19 masks were mandated, though it was not as common.

As more people get comfortable with wearing a mask in public, this practice will continue to help people fight off allergies as well as stop confusion with symptoms of COVID-19. "I really do want to decrease people having allergy symptoms where they might worry that it's COVID", says Matz. While COVID-19 is usually indicated by a fever, many of the symptoms can be similar to allergies, which causes lots of confusion during this time of the year.

While wearing a mask in these types of settings were not common before the pandemic, it might be a simple solution for people who spend a lot of time outdoors and experience allergy symptoms from pollen. "People have masks with them all the time, so it's an easy fix right now," says Matz. If you find yourself staying inside to avoid allergies this season, wearing a mask might just be the key to getting rid of that stuffy nose and itchy throat.

For more information on scheduling an appointment with a physician and all other LifeBridge Health services, visit lifebridgehealth.org or call 410-601-WELL.