Israelis in Jerusalem wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, Nov. 8, 2020. (Flash90/Olivier Fitoussi) (Flash90/Olivier Fitoussi)
CORONAVIRUS

Leading hospital says the mandatory mask-wearing to protect against the coronavirus has led to a dramatic 65% drop in severe asthma.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

An Israeli study has revealed that there was indeed a small silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic with a dramatic drop in hospital visits by asthma sufferers, the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.

Researchers at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv found a whopping 65% decrease in the hospitalization of severe asthma patients and a huge 45% drop in the number of urgent visits to the hospital’s emergency room by asthma sufferers last year as compared to 2019.

The head of Sheba’s Clinical Immunology, Angioedema and Allergy Unit, Prof. Nancy Agmon-Levin, said the dramatic drop in asthma cases was attributed to the mandatory mask-wearing when Israelis left their homes.

“Masks blocked infectious agents and definitely pollen,” Agmon-Levin told the Post, adding that she and her team heard feedback from patients who suffered less from allergies than in previous years.

According to the Health Ministry, allergies affect 30% of the Israeli population. The team also correlated against air pollution levels.

They found that there was a roughly 10% decrease in overall emergency department referrals during 2020 but a large decrease in asthma referrals during the same period.

“You go outside during Passover – a time in which many plants are blooming that are highly allergenic in Israel. Wear a mask, and most pollens will not penetrate your nose and mouth,” Agmon-Levin said. “It’s a nice idea that you can decrease exacerbation from pollen with something that costs 90 agorot [25 cents for a disposable surgical mask] compared to the drugs we usually give patients that are very expensive and have many more adverse effects.”

The Sheba study was the second in Israel on the subject. A report published at the end of 2020 by the Galilee Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University showed that 40% of 215 nurses who wore either surgical masks or N95 masks experienced less sneezing and suffered less from runny or stuffed noses.

However, with the dramatic drop in coronavirus infections in Israel due to the successful vaccination campaign, this week the Ministry of Health announced that citizens are no longer required to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a crowded situation.

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