Did you know the mask you’ve been wearing to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 may have other benefits? It can be a vital tool to help you prevent asthma and allergy symptoms.
A mask acts like a barrier. It can block some of the particles in the air – such as allergens, pollution, and viruses – and keep them from getting into your nose, mouth, and lungs. It may help reduce asthma and allergy symptoms and protect you from getting sick or spreading an illness.
Here are some of the ways wearing a face mask can benefit you if you have asthma and allergies.
Masks can help reduce the spread of respiratory infections like COVID-19 and the flu. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and the flu are viruses that spread from person to person. You can catch them when you are near an infected person when they cough or sneeze. People can spread the coronavirus and the flu a few days before they even have symptoms. Some people don’t even have symptoms when they have COVID-19.
The flu can be serious, especially for people with asthma. Each year, it sends thousands of people to the hospital and causes deaths. People with asthma are at high risk of getting other serious health problems – such as pneumonia – from the flu.
Millions of people around the world have gotten very ill or have died from COVID-19. Studies show people with asthma are not at greater risk of getting COVID-19 or having severe COVID-19.1,2,3 But COVID-19 may be serious for anyone, especially people with certain health conditions (such as severe asthma).
There are several other steps you can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. Along with wearing a mask, follow these steps to help keep your and other people healthy:
- Get the COVID-19 and flu vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is available for anyone 5 and older. The CDC recommends people ages 6 months and older get the flu vaccine every year.
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, especially after coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have access to running water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- If you feel sick, stay home from work or school and contact your doctor.
See our COVID-19 mask guide to learn:
- Who can wear a mask
- How to choose a mask
- How to wear, remove, wash, and dispose of your mask
Masks may stop allergens in the air from getting into your nose, throat, and lungs. If allergens like pollen, mold, and animal dander cause you to have allergy and asthma symptoms, you may get some relief from wearing a face mask. They can be especially helpful when pollen and mold counts are high, or on public transportation, such as planes, where animals may be present. In fact, some studies have shown that people had fewer allergic rhinitis symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic because of wearing masks.4,5
Masks may give you some protection from air pollution. Polluted air can be full of harmful gases, smoke from fires, volcanic ash, and dust particles. Air pollution can irritate your airways and trigger asthma symptoms. Wearing a face mask may cut down some of that pollution from getting into your lungs. The quality of the mask will impact how well it does at blocking pollution. A simple cloth mask or disposable surgical mask will block some, but not all air pollution.
People who are exposed to harmful amounts of air pollution for hours need better protection. (People who work outside during times the air quality is rated poor, or people who are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollution at their workplace.) NIOSH-approved N95 masks or respirators capture 95% of tiny (0.3 micron) particles in the air. They are very effective at blocking most types of air pollution.
KN95 masks provide an alternative to N95 respirators and are recommended for non-health-care settings for non-medical use. Not all KN95 masks meet the similar requirements for N95 masks. Find a reliable source to purchase KN95 masks.
Can People With Asthma Wear Masks?
Now that you know some of the benefits, you may wonder if people with asthma can wear a mask. The answer is yes! Not only can you wear a face mask if you have asthma, but it can be another tool to help you stay healthy and keep your asthma under control.
Medical Review: December 2021 by Mitchell Grayson, MD
Are you feeling isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic? Join our community to connect with other people with asthma and allergies. Get up-to-date information about protecting yourself from the flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses.
1. Chhiba, K.D., Patel, G.B., Vu, T.H.T, Chen, M.M., Guo, A., Kudlaty, E., Mai, Q., Yeh, C., Muhammad, L.N., Harris, K.E., Bochner, B.S., Grammar, L.C., Greenberger, P.A., Kalhan, R., Kuang, F.L., Saltoun, C.A., Schleimer, R.P., Stevens, W.W., & Peters, A.T. (2020). Prevalence and characterization of asthma in hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.06.010.
2. Butler, M. W., O’Reilly, A., Dunican, E. M., Mallon, P., Feeney, E. R., Keane, M. P., & McCarthy, C. (2020). Prevalence of comorbid asthma in COVID-19 patients. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.04.061
3. Lieberman-Cribbin, W., Rapp, J., Alpert, N., Tuminello, S., & Taioli, E. (2020). The Impact of Asthma on Mortality in Patients With COVID-19. Chest. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2020.0air pol.575
4. Mengi, E., Kara, C. O., Alptürk, U., & Topuz, B. (2022). The effect of face mask usage on the allergic rhinitis symptoms in patients with pollen allergy during the covid-19 pandemic. American journal of otolaryngology, 43(1), 103206. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjoto.2021.103206
5. Dror, A. A., Eisenbach, N., Marshak, T., Layous, E., Zigron, A., Shivatzki, S., Morozov, N. G., Taiber, S., Alon, E. E., Ronen, O., Zusman, E., Srouji, S., & Sela, E. (2020). Reduction of allergic rhinitis symptoms with face mask usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. The journal of allergy and clinical immunology. In practice, 8(10), 3590–3593. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaip.2020.08.035