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Beards and Lung Health: A Lung Health Expert Weighs In

Illustration of a man in plaid and glasses with a beard on half his face and clean shaven on the otherBeards are a hot trend that have a long-standing reputation for keeping you warm during the cold winter months. But that's not all. There are several claims online and in the media that beards are healthy and others that they are not. So what's a guy to do? That's why we've turned to a lung health expert to take a look at claims surrounding beards and lung health. 

American Lung Association Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Albert Rizzo takes a look at common claims about beards and lung health and tells it to us straight: are beards healthy or harmful?

Claim #1: A beard can keep you warm in winter.
A beard may keep more warmth on the skin, so the facial temperature may be helped by that, but overall won't have a tremendous effect on body warmth. And for those with asthma who need to protect their airway from cold air, a beard just won't do that. So wearing a scarf is certainly better than even a bushy beard.

Claim #2: A beard can ward off throat disease.
The hairs that grow in the nostrils were designed by nature to guard the lungs from the invasion of airborne bacteria and particles. If we have additional hair like a beard to filter what we breathe it adds to this protective nature. It may be a good reason to have the beard as it serves as another barrier to protect the airways and lungs. However, whatever the beard has trapped, whether bacteria or allergens, you don't want it to stay there. The beard may serve as a filter, but like a filter in a furnace, if you don't change it regularly (or clean it in this case) it leads to trouble. Transmission of bacteria from the beard to the body is more likely the longer it remains in the beard. To really take advantage of any health benefits of a beard, you must practice proper hygiene and clean the beard regularly.

Claim #3: A beard can assist those with asthma.
For those with asthma, asthma "triggers" like dust, smoke or pet dander can make it hard to breathe. Some suggest that the beard serves as a filter for the lungs, stopping these triggers from getting into your respiratory system and preventing an asthma flare-up.

This may have some truth to it, but it's important to know that some facial hair styles may be more effective than others. A bigger, bushier beard would filter more air to keep the allergens out, whereas smaller facial hair would be less effective, especially if it offers not a whole lot of coverage around the nose. For instance, a goatee or a chin strap beard certainly has different health implications than someone that looks like Henry the VIII.

Claim #4: Beards can make allergies worse.
For those with allergies, a bigger beard may protect you from pollutants or allergens filtering into the airway, but there's a catch - if you don't clean out the beard, ultimately these allergens will get into the airways. So if you go out in the day, allergens may be caught in facial hair, but if the facial hair is not cleaned those allergens will follow you around all day and may end up in the airway down the road.

Claim #5: Beards can make you sick.
Many claim that beards trap germs and harbor bacteria on the face. This goes back to the cleanliness thing. You can't just trim the beard and facial hair, you need to wash the beard to remove particles and bacteria you've been trapping all day long. If not, you will have bacteria and particles trapped on your face all day.

The Bottom Line
Facial hair is a personal preference and everyone should be able to express their feelings and fashion sense. And when it comes to beards, there may be some potentially good and bad health effects, but you can mitigate some of the risks by keeping the beard and facial hair clean.

Illustration by MacKenzie Olsberg

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Related Topics: Arts & Entertainment, Health & Wellness,


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