Seasonal allergies aren’t an excuse to stay indoors. Sniffling, sneezing and swollen glands can put a damper on your trip, but there are ways to head them off. If you’re worried about how pollen might affect your hiking trips, here are a few ways you can help calm those sneezing fits.
Know the Pollen Count
Pollen counts are routinely added to weather forecasts so as long as you do your homework you can avoid hiking on days that’ll seriously affect your allergies. Aim for low pollen counts that tend to come with cloudy, rainy days. It sounds a little gloomy, but you can still get in a great hike without the sun.
Know Your Allergen
You’re probably aware of what causes your nose to congest during the spring, but do you know what it looks like in the wild? Do your research and study your allergens so you can spot them before they knock you on your butt. There are many books available that detail plants found on most hikes, so head to your local bookstore, outdoor retailer or online for a guide with allergen information.
Time it Right
Different allergens tend to pollenate at varying points throughout the day. For instance, trees pollenate during dusk and dawn, so if that’s your weak point head out during the middle of the day. Grass, on the other hand, pollenates in the afternoon so those with grass allergies might be better off hiking in the morning.
Keep it Short
The more strenuous the activity, the harder you’ll breathe, which means the more likely you are to take allergens into your lungs. Keep your hikes short on days when the pollen count is particularly high to help avoid setting your allergies off.
Wear a Mask
You’re probably going to look a little goofy doing it, but wearing a mask is a great way to keep allergens from reaching your face. The eyes, nose and mouth are most susceptible to allergens so protecting them while on a hike can help you get through the day without an attack. If you don’t want to wear a face mask, a Buff or a bandana tied around the lower half of your face, paired with sunglasses, is a good alternative.
While some folks are apprehensive about relying on drugs to keep their allergies at bay, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors you might not have a choice. Speak with your doctor about which medications are safest and most effective. Downing a few pills every now and then is a small price to pay in order to enjoy the outdoors.
Hike Rocky Terrain
Most outdoor allergens are found below tree line, so consider keeping your hikes high above sea level. Rocky terrain is the optimal choice for those suffering from seasonal allergies. Desert landscapes are also a great escape from pollen and other triggers, so set up your tent someplace where you won’t be surrounded by greenery.
If you’re taking an extended hike lasting more than one day, be sure to bathe after a day on the trail. Pollen tends to collect on clothes and in your hair so falling asleep without washing off will inundate your system with harmful allergens. Clean off and start the new day fresh and allergy free.
Camp Downwind (From Water)
If you find yourself camping near a lake try to pitch your tent downstream, when the wind picks up there’s a good chance the water will collect any pollens floating overtop, which could keep them from reaching you. Otherwise it would be wise to try the opposite of this: camp upwind from any large green areas so that you get the fresh wind before it hits the plants.