Will my Covid-19 mask protect me against seasonal allergies?

We asked a medical expert

04 September 2020 - 06:16 By Khanyisile Ngcobo
If you suffer from allergies, it's essential to wash your face mask after each use as it could be carrying pollen.
If you suffer from allergies, it's essential to wash your face mask after each use as it could be carrying pollen.
Image: 123RF/sylv1rob1

Health authorities around the globe have touted the use of face masks to protect against Covid-19, but can they also protect against hay fever?

Prof Jonny Peter, head of the UCT Lung Institute’s Allergy and Immunology Unit, who previously provided guidelines on how to differentiate hay fever from Covid-19, says this could potentially be the “silver lining” of wearing such masks.

“Hay fever is activated by airborne allergens such as pollen,” he explains. “Masks may offer some protection against seasonal allergies since they can prevent larger particles from being inhaled.

However, smaller pollen particles are still likely to get through the covering, therefore masks should not be your only form of protection.

“Keep in mind that pollen is a fine powder, microscopic in size, and can travel deep into the nose and lungs. The higher the concentration of pollen in the air, the greater the chance of an allergic reaction.”

Peter also stresses the importance of washing your fabric face mask after each use — or using a new one in the case of a disposable surgical mask — as it may be carrying pollen.

He adds that as pollen levels rise, it’s important to continue managing your allergies during the pandemic with antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays and inhalers.