Pollen Levels In Spain Rise But Masks Help Sufferers With Allergic Reactions.
As we head into our second pandemic spring, many of us may be itching to give up our masks but under current restrictions, this is not possible. However, for the millions of adults in Spain suffering from seasonal allergies, there’s another reason to keep wearing your mask.
In Spain, the most common allergy is to pollen. According to recent data, hay fever affects about eight million people and is mainly caused by the pollen of certain plants or trees. Grasses, olive trees, cypress, salsola, plane trees and parietaria are among those which most frequently cause allergies and it is in towns and heavily-populated areas that the number of sufferers is growing, because of greater contamination and the planting of highly allergenic species in urban spaces.
For most people, plants such as those mentioned above are inoffensive, but for those with allergies, their bodies consider the pollen from them to be an invasory agent, here is where wearing a decent quality mask can help sufferers.
While cloth and medical masks do a good job of protecting us from viral particles, studies show masks also can be effective at filtering common allergens, which typically float around in much larger sizes, making them easier to block. Pine tree pollen, for example, is about 800 times larger than the coronavirus, said Dr David Lang, an allergist at Cleveland Clinic. Even before the pandemic, he advised patients with severe allergies to wear a mask outside, especially for prolonged activities like gardening or yard work.
Study shows positive results
Israeli researchers recently studied how much difference wearing a mask could make for allergy sufferers with mild, moderate and severe symptoms. Using data collected from 215 nurses who used surgical masks or N95 masks during a two-week period, they found that among the 44 nurses with severe allergy symptoms, nearly 40 per cent experienced less sneezing, runny nose and stuffy nose when they wore either a surgical or N95 mask.
Among the 91 nurses with moderate symptoms, 30 per cent improved when they wore a surgical mask; that rose to 40 per cent when they wore an N95. Among the 80 nurses who started the study with mild symptoms, 43 nurses, or about 54 per cent, felt their symptoms improved while wearing a surgical or N95 mask, said Dr Amiel Dror, a physician-scientist at Galilee Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine and the lead author on the study.
Mask use was also more effective for the nurses with seasonal allergies than those with year-round symptoms. Wearing a mask did not solve the problem of itchy eyes, according to the September report, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
In addition to filtering out allergens, wearing a mask also makes the air in our nasal cavities warmer and more humid, said Dr Dror. “We know that dry air and cold air sometimes has the ability to elicit a reaction in the nose,” he said. “This is an extra benefit of wearing a mask. With all the bad, you can find some good.”
Protection varies from mask to mask, depending on the fit and, for cloth masks, the weave of the fabric. And unless you wear a mask at all times, you may still be affected by indoor allergens such as dust mites or pollen carried through open windows on spring breezes.
“It can help, but it’s not necessarily going to take away all your symptoms,” said Dr Sandra Lin, a professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
To reduce hay fever symptoms, wash and change your mask frequently. “The last thing you want is allergen getting trapped in it,” Doctors recommend patients change their clothes when they get home and shower before sleep, to ensure that pollen doesn’t stick to their skin, and wash reusable masks frequently. Buy the best quality masks you can afford.
Link to pollen calendars in Spain.
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