Dr. Deanna VanKuren
Scholarship of Discovery
BACKGROUND: This study explored the effect of masks on allergic rhinitis related to ragweed. Research shows surgical and KN95 masks reduce nasal symptoms arising from dust, pollen, and ragweed. Other studies have contradictory findings about the effect of masks on ocular symptoms. Very few studies have examined the effect of masks on early and late allergic rhinitis.
METHODS: This qualitative study involved thirty college students aged 18 to 25 from Olivet Nazarene University with self-reported or physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis on November 15, 2022. Participants were randomly assigned to a control (no mask), surgical, or KN95 mask group and walked around Perry Farm Park for an hour to assess ragweed sensitivity. Data was collected manually using a modified survey from allergy specialists and summarized in the results as an outline for future study. Survey questions were sent via school-wide email and disseminated through flyers distributed in nursing classes and to the men and women’s soccer teams.
RESULTS: The surgical mask preliminarily trended a higher correlation on decreasing nasal allergic rhinitis symptoms than the KN95 masks, majority reporting mild nasal symptoms during the experience and no nasal symptoms after the experience. Most surgical mask-wearers felt the mask helped moderately during the experience or reduced one to two symptoms. Surgical mask-wearers reported a likeliness to wear the mask in the future.
CONCLUSION: The study implies that the surgical mask may effectively reduce nasal allergic rhinitis symptoms related to ragweed. A broader study and repetition of the study in the future is necessary to examine the effects of environmental change, such as low or high ragweed counts, and how late allergic rhinitis is affected by mask-wearing.
Knutte, Katherine, "The Effect of Masks on Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms Related to Ragweed and its Influence on College Students" (2023). Honors Program Projects. 139.
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