Allergy masks may be helpful to individuals who are highly sensitive to molds, allergens, air pollution and chemicals as well as those susceptible to getting colds. The masks filter out airborne particles and allergens and in turn reduce symptoms.
Individuals wear allergy masks for doing a wide range of activities where they are going to be exposed to irritants or allergens. During the fall months, masks can protect you from inhaling ragweed pollens and mold spores that drift through the air.
Consider wearing a mask when you are:
•Housecleaning that involves moldy surfaces, dust or use of chemicals.
•Exposed to urban air pollution.
•Raking leaves or doing other yard work chores.
•Sick but cannot stay home.
•Out in cold air that could trigger an asthma attack.
•Out in public and trying to avoid getting sick.
If you are picturing one of those masks doctors wear, think again. These days, there are as many types of masks as there are reasons for wearing them. There are pollen and allergy masks, cold-weather masks, sport-specific masks and masks for individuals with chemical sensitivities. Some masks look like something Darth Vader would wear and others look like bandanas.
Things to consider when purchasing a mask include:
•Type of filtration that the mask provides.
•Purpose of the mask; e.g. filtering chemicals or allergies, cold weather protection.
•Adjustability of straps, comfort and ease of wearing.
•Composition of the mask and whether you are allergic to any of the materials.
•How often you will wear the mask. Will a disposable mask be sufficient or do you need something more long-lasting?
Masks need to fit snugly to be effective in filtering out offending particles. Because they are usually not returnable, make sure you are getting the right size. Beards and facial hair may affect their effectiveness.
Masks or filters need to be replaced when you notice a decrease in filtration performance or smell solvents.