Dubai Shopping Festival activities at Al Seef. Dubai. Photo: Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: Wearing masks has caused a decrease in seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) this winter, UAE-based doctors said.

Allergic rhinitis is a condition in which the body overreacts to something in the environment, such as pollen or dust; or inside the home, such as pet dander or mold. The usual symptoms include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. 

“Because of the use of masks, SAR is a little lesser now. However, in those who have asthma associated with allergic rhinitis or perennial (year-round) allergic rhinitis (PAR), there could be a slight increase because they can have difficulty in breathing,” said Dr Sanjay Arora, HOD and specialist ENT at NMC Speciality Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

Usual treatment

Another doctor, Dr Ajith Kumar, a specialist ENT surgeon at Amina Hospital, Ajman, cases of common cold or nasal pharyngitis are down this winter, probably because of masks curbing their spread. He said the usual treatment of allergic rhinitis includes antihistamine medicine and nasal steroid spray. He said there are also cases in which patients develop allergy symptoms because of the mask, like itchy and runny nose, or nasal block, which gets treated.

Dust traps

Dr Issam Al Achkar, consultant ENT surgeon at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai, emphasised the need to wear the right kind of masks. He said some fabric or cloth masks  “collect a lot of dust” compared to temporary-use disposable surgical masks. “Some people are not taking care of good hygiene for fabric masks, nor are they replacing them frequently,” Dr Al Achkar said.

He added that some people suffering from the allergic rhinitis symptoms don’t visit doctors because they are afraid they may have to test for COVID-19 and come out positive; they get “confused” between the symptoms. “Sometimes people just stay at home and ‘treat’  themselves on their own, until they end up getting sinusitis.” Some people also spray perfume on the masks to offset the smell from the fabric or their mouth, “and that makes the allergy worse”.