65% drop in severe asthma, Israeli hospital says it’s the masks

Prof. Nancy Agmon-Levin, who conducted the study, told The Jerusalem Post that she believes “masks blocked infectious agents and definitely pollen.”

An ultra-Orthodox man wears three masks over his face while celebrating Purim amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Jerusalem February 28, 2021  (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
An ultra-Orthodox man wears three masks over his face while celebrating Purim amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Jerusalem February 28, 2021
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Sheba Medical Center found a 65% decrease in the hospitalization of severe asthma patients and a 45% drop in the number of urgent visits to the hospital’s emergency room by asthma sufferers  in 2020 versus 2019.
Prof. Nancy Agmon-Levin, who conducted the study, told The Jerusalem Post that she believes “masks blocked infectious agents and definitely pollen.”
Agmon-Levin is the head of Sheba’s Clinical Immunology, Angioedema and Allergy Unit. She said that she and her team were hearing comments from patients that they had a lot less allergies this year compared to previous years.
“We thought this is probably because of wearing masks, but thought about how we could prove the idea,” she explained. “We checked the referrals to the emergency department due to asthma, of which 80% to 90% of all asthma patients are due to allergies.”
While there were such large decreases in asthma referrals, there was only around a 10% decrease in overall emergency department referrals during the same period.
Likewise, when looking at the first quarter of the year, pollution levels appear very similar to every other year, she said.
Allergies affect 30% of the Israeli population, according to the Health Ministry.
“You go outside during Passover – a time in which many plants are blooming that are highly allergic in Israel – wearing a mask and most pollens will not penetrate your nose and mouth, so you will have a lot less allergies,” Agmon-Levin said. “It’s a nice idea that you can decrease exacerbation from pollen with something that costs 90 agorot compared to the drugs we usually give patients that are very expensive and have many more adverse effects.”
This is the second Israeli study published on the subject. A separate report was released late last year by the Galilee Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University that was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and showed that 40% of 215 nurses who wore either surgical masks or N95 masks experienced less sneezing and suffered less from having runny or stuffy noses.
On Sunday, a Health Ministry decision to stop the requirement that citizens need to wear masks in open spaces went into effect.