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Ask the Allergist

Ask the Allergist

Wearing a face mask gives me an itchy, runny nose. How can I avoid this?

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When I wear a face mask my nose itches and runs. I sneeze and my nose feels swollen for the rest of the day or more. I tried over the counter (OTC) nasal allergy sprays but they irritate me. Any advice?

It sounds like you have a sensitive nose. Some individuals with “reactive rhinitis” may also have this problem. Rhinitis is swelling inside the nose. Reactive rhinitis is non-allergic rhinitis. Irritants like strong odors, smoke, and weather changes can trigger nasal (nose) symptoms.

Face masks come in many sizes and materials. Some materials may irritate your nose more than others. Try different masks to find one that is comfortable, fits well, and is easy to breathe through. Remember to wash reusable masks after use. Learn more about how to choose the best face mask here.

Using a nasal rinse can help a stuffy and runny nose. Use a nasal rinse with normal saline (isotonic saline). If this is not helpful, you can try a nasal spray/rinse with hypertonic saline. This saltier saline may help draw fluid out of the nasal membranes.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Using a prescription nasal spray may be a treatment option as well.

Nasal Allergy (Rhinitis)
Answered by

Douglas T. Johnston, DO, FAAAAI, FACAAI, is an allergist/clinical immunologist at Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Assistant Professor at Edward Via School of Osteopathic Medicine in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). He has lectured at national and international medical conferences and has publications in several medical journals, including “Clinical Immunology,” “World Allergy Organization Journal,” “Journal of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology,” “The Journal of the American Medical Association,” and the “New England Journal of Medicine.”

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