AARP Eye Center
By now, most of us know the preventive measures that can help to keep COVID-19 at bay: vaccines and boosters, improved ventilation, staying away from people who are sick and yes, wearing a face mask in crowded indoor settings.
But, it turns out, a face mask can come in handy for more than COVID protection, with potential benefits that range from allergy relief to lowering the risk of heart disease. Here are four other ways a face mask may benefit your health.
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1. Allergies and asthma
Cough? Runny nose? Fever?
It may not be a bug. An estimated 40 million to 60 million Americans experience cold-like symptoms — often referred to as hay fever, or allergic rhinitis — as the result of an allergic reaction to mold spores, pollen, dust mites and the like, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Similar to its role in helping to block virus particles, a face mask can also help to prevent allergens in the air from getting inside your nose, throat and lungs, and causing these reactions, says the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
In fact, among a pool of 50 study participants with pollen allergies, 92 percent described their nasal symptoms as moderate to severe before the start of the pandemic. That rate dropped to 56 percent during the height of the pandemic when they were wearing face masks, according to the research, published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology. Sneezing and runny nose were among the symptoms that improved the most.
Keeping allergens out can also be helpful for the estimated 25 million Americans with asthma since pollen can trigger an attack, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation says. Consider wearing one when pollen counts are high.