Outdoor Seasonal Allergies
Enjoy more of the great outdoors by learning about common seasonal allergy triggers and finding out how you can help reduce your exposure to them.
Because they change with the seasons, outdoor allergies are often called seasonal allergies. An allergy is a sensitivity of your immune system to something that is ordinarily harmless. Seasonal allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to certain allergens found outside, from sources like those from mold spores and tree, grass or weed pollens. Depending on where you live and the current weather conditions, seasonal allergies can start as early as February and last until the first frost.1
While seasonal allergens can be difficult to avoid because it seems like they’re everywhere, there are things you can do to minimize your exposure to them.
Select an allergy to learn more:
SEASONAL ALLERGY SYMPTOMS
Itchy, Watery Eyes
Itchy Nose or Throat
Allergy testing by an allergist can assess whether your symptoms are caused by pollen, mold or another substance.
One of the most common triggers for seasonal allergies are pollen spores. They are small, light and dry, so the wind can carry them. Pollen counts can vary day-to-day, depending on several factors, including the weather. For example, dry, windy weather spreads pollen quickly. However, heavy rains and humid weather conditions weigh down pollen, keeping it on the ground.2 In general, plants and trees that pollinate via wind cause the most problems for people with seasonal allergies.
Weed Pollen: Ragweed is a weed that grows in most parts of the United States. It is a potent and widespread cause of pollen allergy symptoms. This tall, branched plant is found throughout the lower 48 states in dry fields, pastures and by roadsides.
Grass Pollen: There are hundreds of different grass types. However, only some cause allergies. The most common types of grasses that cause allergies include Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky, Orchard, Rye, Sweet Vernal and Timothy. Grasses usually pollinate in the late spring and early summer in northern regions of the United States. In the south, grasses may pollinate across many seasons and could trigger allergy symptoms throughout the year.3
Tree Pollen: When it comes to trees, watch out for hardwood deciduous species, including birch, oak, elm, maple, ash, alder and hazel. These trees generally pollinate from late winter to the end of spring, depending on where you live.Get Your Local Pollen Forecast
DID YOU KNOW?
Ragweed, a major source of pollen allergies, has been discovered as far as 400 miles out to sea and up to two miles in the atmosphere.4
Tips for Pollen Allergy Sufferers
BEAT THE CLOCK
Ragweed Pollen counts are typically highest in the morning and at dusk, so try to plan outside activities for other times of the day.
Wear an inexpensive painter's mask when you're working in the garden or doing other outside chores.
MAKE A CHANGE
Pollen spores can hitch a ride on your shoes, clothing and hair and get tracked inside. After spending time outdoors, be sure to remove your shoes, take a quick shower and change your clothes to remove pollen.
CLEAR THE AIR
When driving, keep windows up and set the air conditioner on "recirculate." At home, keep windows closed and use air conditioning. Be sure to change your filters often.
Looking to plant trees on your property? Avoid hardwood deciduous trees that can aggravate allergies, including birch, oak, elm, maple, ash, alder and hazel. Instead, go with species such as Catalpa, Crepe myrtle, dogwood, fir or redwood trees.
Some common types of grass produce more pollen spores, including Timothy, Johnson, Bermuda, Orchard, Rye, Kentucky and Sweet Vernal grasses.3 Instead, try planting the female buffalo grass plant as it does not flower and therefore produces little to no pollen. Avoid planting sunflowers, daisies and chrysanthemums in your yard as they’re all related to ragweed. If you’re not sure what to plant, ask your local garden center before you buy.6
A mold allergy can be triggered by microscopic mold spores that float in the air like pollen causing uncomfortable mold allergy symptoms. Many people think of mold as an indoor issue only. But mold also thrives in shady, damp areas outside, including on soil, plants, rotting wood, compost piles or dead leaves.
Since mold thrives in damp spaces, mold allergy symptoms may be more common during the summer months when it’s hot and humid. Although, mold may be prevalent year-round in warmer climates,like the south or west coasts.While pollen spores die with the first frost, mold spores simply go dormant during the winter. And when spring comes, the spores grow back.7
DID YOU KNOW?
While some molds form colonies that you can see with the unaided eye, others can only be viewed under a microscope. So, just because you can’t see the mold, doesn’t mean it’s not there!7
Tips for Mold Allergy Sufferers
LEAVE IT OUTSIDE
Your shoes, clothing and hair can all be magnets for mold spores. Remove your shoes before entering your home and be sure to shower and change clothes right away after spending time outside. If you’re pinched for time, at least wash your hands and face well after coming in.8
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE RAKE
Mold spores can collect on fallen leaves. So be sure to rake your yard often. Since raking can stir mold spores into the air, wear a mask while tackling this chore. Or, better yet, enlist the help of another member of the family who isn’t allergic to mold.9
MASK MOLD SPORES
Wear a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved N95 type of mask to help reduce your exposure to mold spores when cutting grass, raking leaves or digging around plants. The masks are sold at drug stores and home supply centers.8 Or, better yet, enlist the help of another family member who isn't allergic to mold.
SKIP THE LINE
Bedding or clothing hung out to dry on a clothes line may pick up mold spores,along with other allergens.Use a clothes dryer instead.8
Seasonal Allergies. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed September 14, 2017.
Pollen. American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. Accessed December 4, 2017.
What if You’re Allergic to Grass? 10 Steps to Managing Grass Pollen Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Accessed December 4, 2017.
Six Things You Should Know About Ragweed. Claritin Blue Sky Living. Accessed September 15, 2017.
A Quick Guide to Party Planning During Allergy Season. Claritin Blue Sky Living. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Spring Gardening with Allergies. Claritin Blue Sky Living. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Mold Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Accessed September 14, 2017.
Fall Leaves Are Great for the Garden but Can Be Not So Good for Allergies. Claritin Blue Sky Living. Accessed September 14, 2017.
How To Reduce Allergens In Your Yard This Fall. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed December 4, 2017.
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