For nature lovers, outdoor adventurers, and backyard gardeners, seasonal allergies can be a real drag. Sneezing, coughing, or irritated eyes can ruin any hike, run, bike ride, camping trip, or family picnic. But, people who suffer from seasonal allergies don’t have to avoid going outdoors all year. There are many ways to keep allergies at bay and still enjoy the fresh air.
Know Your Triggers
One of the first steps in tackling allergies is knowing the sources of your irritation. Are your allergies caused by grasses, weeds, or trees? If you can identify the source, you can anticipate the times of the year when your allergies will most likely strike.
Generally, in the United States, trees are the first plants to release pollen, which typically happens during the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Next, grasses pollinate during the late spring and early summer, followed by weeds, which produce pollen throughout the late summer and early fall.
Keep in mind that mild temperatures during the winter can lead some plants to pollinate early. Similarly, an unusually wet spring can also trigger faster plant growth, causing some species to pollinate earlier in the season. However, in tropical climates, some grasses may pollinate for much for the year.
In addition to seasonal considerations, several weather-related factors can also exacerbate pollen-triggered allergies. During warm days and cool nights, tree, grass, and ragweed pollen flourish, meaning pollen levels are highest on warm, dry, or blustery days. In contrast, pollen counts are typically lower on days that are cloudy and less windy. Rainfall events can help to wash away pollen and provide a reprieve. But, after the rain, pollen levels can spike once again.
Keep Tabs on the Pollen Count
When planning an outdoor adventure, whether it’s a morning trail run or a weekend camping trip, check the pollen count for your region or intended destination. The daily allergy forecast provides information on both pollen levels and the specific types of pollen active in a particular area.
Time Your Outdoor Adventures
Pollen levels fluctuate at different times of the year, and they can also vary at various points throughout the day. When planning a workout, or any other outdoor activity during allergy season, consider the time of day. During the spring and summer, when trees and grasses are pollinating, pollen levels typically peak in the evening. Later in the summer and through the early fall—the pollen season for weeds—levels are highest in the morning.
While you’re out for a hike, run, or bike ride, or just working in the yard, an extra layer of protection can reduce your exposure to allergens. Use options like wraparound sunglasses, a Buff, or a bandana to help limit the amount of pollen entering your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Wash Pollen Away After You’ve Been Outdoors
After time spent outdoors, be sure to wash away that pesky pollen when you get home. Clean gear, throw dirty clothes in the wash, and if possible, remove your shoes at the front door to keep irritants outside. In the shower, be sure to wash your skin and hair to remove allergens. If your seasonal allergies are especially severe, use lubricating drops to rinse pollen from your eyes, and flush nasal passages with saline spray.
Find a Medication Routine That Works
Consider your favorite outdoor activities, or destinations, and tailor your medication routine to address the source of your allergies and your typical symptoms. Depending on the cause of your seasonal allergies, and the way your symptoms manifest, your medical professional may recommend a variety of different treatment options. Antihistamines can treat symptoms like sneezing and itching, while decongestants can reduce nasal stuffiness. Fortunately, many of these medications are available over-the-counter.
Other treatment options, such as nasal corticosteroids or antihistamine eye drops, may also be recommended to control seasonal allergy symptoms, especially when pollen levels peak. If you’re planning a trip or outdoor excursion when you know the pollen count will be high, talk to your medical provider about supplementing your regular allergy medication with options like eye drops or nasal sprays.
Check Your Pets
Pets are the perfect companions for all sorts of outdoor activities. But, they can also become coated with minuscule grains of pollen as they’re frolicking at the dog park, running a wooded trail, or even just sunbathing in the backyard. The pollen that gathers on animals can trigger a pet owner’s allergy symptoms. So, it’s wise to wipe down your pet’s fur with a damp cloth after you walk in the woods or play fetch in the grass during peak allergy season.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.