Tips to Avoid Outdoor Allergens

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Being outdoors can be fun. But for the millions of people who suffer from environmental allergies, time outdoors can lead to sneezes, coughs, and itchy, watery eyes. That is because pollen and mold spores float through the air and land on your skin and clothes anytime you go outside. This is especially true in the spring, summer, and fall.1

Avoiding allergy triggers is basic advice for those with allergies, but it can be hard to completely avoid the outdoors.1

Here are some tips to keep yourself as comfortable as possible while enjoying outside activities.

Avoid danger zones

If you are allergic to mold, avoid areas with standing water and high humidity. Mold can grow in piles of wet leaves, in damp soil, and in rotting wood.1

Plant pollen is released from trees, grasses, and other plants and carried by wind, rain, insects, and animals. Pollen may also be stirred up by gardening and cutting the grass. If you have pollen allergies, you may be able to reduce your symptoms by staying indoors during pollination season and during certain times of the day. Some people even travel to another part of the country during hay fever season.1-3

People irritated by air pollution may need to avoid living, working, or traveling in areas with heavy pollution. Examples include pollutants like gas combustion from cars, trucks, trains, construction and farming operations, power plants, and manufacturing plants.6

Check air quality

The National Allergy Bureau™ (NAB) is certified by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI) to determine and publish an official pollen and mold count. You can find this daily rating through apps on your smartphone or online at Plus, TV and radio weather often report pollen and air pollution levels.1

This is a measure of the number of allergens and pollutants in the air based on a network of stations. A pollen forecast is based on past data and local weather forecasts.1

If pollen or air pollution is high, you may take a number of steps to control your exposure:1-4

  • Stay indoors and turn on the air conditioning
  • Do not hang laundry to dry outside, since pollen can stick to your clothes
  • Wear sunglasses to keep your eyes protected from blowing particles
  • Remove outdoor clothes when you come inside
  • Wash your hands or shower when you get home to rinse pollen from your skin and hair
  • Choose less strenuous activities, such as going for a walk instead of a run

Know your triggers

Official air quality counts will not give you the full story on whether you can go outdoors in comfort. You also need to know what you are allergic to. For instance, oak pollen may be high and grass pollen low. If you are allergic to grass but not oak trees, you may be able to enjoy your morning jog.4

In general, pollen counts are highest in the morning and lowest on calm days or after a rain. Dry, windy weather stirs up pollen.3

Wear a mask

It is a simple solution, but masks can help people with allergies limit exposure when doing housework or going outside. People who work in industries that produce smoke, soot, dust, chemicals, and other airborne pollutants often wear respirators or masks to reduce their exposure.5

There are many kinds of masks available. The most common masks are N95, surgical, and cloth. All create a physical barrier from the allergens, and some filter out different airborne particles. Talk to your healthcare team to find out if wearing a mask is right for you.5

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