By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A bombardment of pollen in the Philadelphia region is causing misery for millions, but doctors say masks intending to guard against COVID-19 should also help people who have allergies.

“Eyes are very itchy, sometimes it’s even hard to breathe,” Cherie Rosen said.

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Ben and Cherie Rosen’s seasonal allergies are so severe their plans often revolve around the daily pollen count. But this spring it’s different.

“It’s hard for me to speak sometimes just because the allergies are so bad,” Cherie said. “And I haven’t had any of that so far this year.”

Research shows masks might help alleviate allergy symptoms. Israeli researchers looked at data on nurses who wore masks for two weeks — 40% of those suffering from severe allergies reported fewer symptoms when they wore a mask, and 54% with mild allergies said they felt symptoms improve.

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“It almost acts like a barrier between you and the pollen,” allergist and immunologist at Allergy & Asthma Network Dr. Purvi Parikh said. “When you’re outside, it can even protect against indoor allergens if you wear a mask indoors while you’re working.”

Doctors tell patients to change clothes and shower to avoid bringing pollen into the house, the same thing applies to masks.

“Keep it clean because you don’t want to keep putting that mask that might have pollen on it on your face every day,” Parikh said. “You should be washing your mask frequently regardless.”

Ben and Cherie say even a little relief is a good thing.

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“I don’t know if the mask has contributed to it, but I know overall I feel like I’ve had must fewer allergy attacks than I’ve had in past years.”

Stephanie Stahl