Allergies another reason for wearing a mask: researcher

Mask-wearing can help allergy sufferers, according to an SFU researcher. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A Simon Fraser University researcher has some good news and bad news about seasonal allergies.

Cecilia Sierra Heredia, a researcher in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, says climate change is making allergy season start earlier and last longer.

“It has been documented that the blooms are starting earlier and that means pollen is in the air for longer periods of time,” she said. “People who suffer from seasonal allergies will start feeling the symptoms — the watery eyes, the runny nose — earlier in the year.”

On the plus side, she says wearing a mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic can decrease the misery for allergy sufferers on days when there are high pollen concentrations.

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“The one thing that is going to be incredibly helpful, both for COVID and for pollen, is for wearing your face masks because it traps everything,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Ask an Expert: Symptoms for COVID-19 and allergies'
Ask an Expert: Symptoms for COVID-19 and allergies

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more aware of our respiratory health, she says, which can be tricky for allergy sufferers as some of the symptoms they experience overlap with COVID-19 symptoms.

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She says it’s important to keep in mind that there are symptoms linked to COVID-19 — fever, chills, body aches — that are not linked to allergies.

Health officials have long encouraged people to spend more time outdoors where COVID-19 is less likely to be transmitted.

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Sierra Heredia says wearing a mask is crucial for those with allergies.

“It’s for sure another barrier that might help minimize exposure to this allergen while also maximizing our time outdoors,” she said.

“We know that exposure to greenness — to plants and parks — helps with our mental health. So if we can have that without having the allergy symptoms — two thumbs up.”

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