Enjoy the Outdoors

The second it starts to become nice out, many people get the itch to spend as much free time outdoors as possible. Swimming, biking, hiking, camping, gardening—so many favorite activities happen when the temperatures outside rise, the days get longer, and everything blooms.

There is one group of people, however, who are not as thrilled with the change in seasons, as the pollen count rises with the temperature and their allergies return in force. For people with allergies, enjoying the outdoors can seem difficult, if not impossible, with the sneezing, coughing, and watering eyes that come with allergies. So how can they go for a hike, take a bike ride, or even just lay out in the sun without having an allergy attack? 

There are several ways allergy sufferers can try to manage their symptoms and still enjoy their favorite outdoor activities. Of course, it is important for anyone with allergies to have a good understanding of what they are allergic to, how best to avoid allergens, and what treatments are most successful in treating their symptoms effectively; allergies are very individual, and knowing thyself is perhaps the most important step in battling allergies. Once armed with the right personal information, there are a variety of things to be aware of that can help limit exposure to allergens while spending time outdoors.

Check the Pollen Count

This may seem obvious, but it is important to check the pollen count before starting the day, particularly if you are going to be outside (it usually can be found out through the weather forecast on television or in the newspaper). Knowing the pollen count—and if the report is specific enough, what kinds of pollen are most active—gives you a better idea what reactions to expect. It is also good to be aware of the weather, as more dry and windy conditions can also be more problematic for allergy sufferers.

Wait Until Later in the Day

The worst time of day for pollen and spores is early in the morning, from around sunrise (approximately 5 a.m.) until late morning (approximately 10 a.m.). So if you are planning a day outside, try to make plans after lunch if possible; it may be warmer outside, particularly in the summer, but it might be worth being warmer if it means fewer allergy symptoms.   

Watch Your Activity Level

Working out can often be more pleasant outside, but it might be wise to limit the kinds of activities you participate in. The more strenuous and aerobic the workout—running, for example—causes deeper breathing, resulting in more allergens being taken into the lungs. It may be a good idea to save more low-impact exercise for outside and save the running for the treadmill inside.

Depending on your individual allergies, weather conditions, and the pollen count, you can test the air for comfort at higher levels of activity, or if you just love running outside, plan to do your running in the evening and not early in the morning.

Grow More Allergy-Friendly Plants in Your Garden

If you have a yard or maintain a garden, it is worth considering trees and other plants that are not so problematic for allergy sufferers. Some plants produce less pollen, or have larger pollen that is less likely to become airborne and thus affect people with allergies. 

Apple trees, boxwoods, cherry trees, dogwoods, lilacs, pear trees, and zinnias are more allergy-friendly species, while ash, birch, conifers, maples, oaks, and poplars are some trees that should be avoided. Plus, if you are able to grow apple, cherry, or pear trees, you get the added bonus of having fresh fruit at home for part of the year!       

Keep the Pollen in One Place

If you can, try to have an area where you keep all hats, coats, shoes, and any outdoor clothes confined to a limited area or entryway. This way, the articles of clothing most responsible for bringing spores and pollen into your home are all in one place, and not spreading allergens around your living space. It is also a good idea to shower after returning indoors, as this will eliminate excess pollen that may be on your skin or hair.

Wear a Mask to Filter Out Pollen

While not ideal, and while many people are hesitant to wear what they think of as a surgical mask, there is nothing wrong with wearing a filter mask between you and the microscopic monsters that set off your allergies and force you indoors to enjoy the warmer seasons from behind glass.

Just being outside is physically and emotionally beneficial, regardless of activity level, so even if you have to cover your nose and mouth with a little pollen filter mask, you should, because it is better than staying inside for half of the year.