People who suffer from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), sleep apnea or other respiratory conditions have some familiarity with wearing a mask while sleeping. Perhaps not the most comfortable, these masks often help keep airways open or deliver concentrated oxygen to assist breathing when lung functionality or airways are compromised. Sometimes bulky, these masks provide a very real and much needed benefit to ensure oxygen levels remain at levels that keep the body healthy and feeling refreshed after a night's rest. For those who suffer from other respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies, masks serve a different purpose. They block particle allergens like dander and pollen while some also filter out odors, smoke and chemicals. While these types of masks are often worn during the day, there may also be some benefit to wearing them at night.
_In the February issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a research piece explores the idea of asthma sufferers wearing a mask while sleeping. While allergen avoidance is a commonly recommended course of action for people with allergies or asthma, one type of intervention alone is rarely sufficient. This has long been the reason why we have traditionally recommended an overarching approach that includes allergy bedding covers, air filtration, and regular cleaning to removal of carpet and the use of an allergy mask. It is this last part that these researchers focused on.
_This randomized, four week study focused on children with asthma and rhinitis and tested to see how sleeping with a mask (even when they continued on their normal medication) would affect them. What they found was that those who slept with a mask at night to help filter allergens or irritants reported more asthma control days (days where their asthma was under control) and a higher peak expiratory flow than their non-mask wearing counterparts.
_While no single measure, wearing a mask, encasing bedding, or regular cleaning, can effectively control allergies and asthma alone, what the study shows is that when added to a regimen, wearing a mask at night may be beneficial to some children in their efforts to control asthma. If wearing an allergy mask at night is something you want to consider for your child, keep in mind a few things – size/fit, effectiveness, and airflow. While even something as simple as a N95 rated mask will help, comfort, correct sizing and adequate airflow can all impact how likely the child is actually to keep the mask on while s/he sleeps. And if it comes off during the night, don't worry! In the study, almost half of the children who did wear masks, woke up with them no longer on but still benefitted.
_To read the full published research article.
_Author: Kevin Gilmore