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Allergies: Avoiding Outdoor Triggers

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Allergic rhinitis causes symptoms of sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose. But you can control these symptoms with medicine and by avoiding the things that cause them (allergens). If you are allergic to outdoor allergens, such as pollen and mold, you don't have to give up an outdoor life. You just need to know when and how to take precautions.

By taking these precautions, you may have fewer or less severe symptoms.

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To avoid allergens, you need to know what you are allergic to. If you are allergic to outdoor pollens, you may have symptoms only at certain times of the year. If you have symptoms in:

  • Spring, you are probably allergic to tree pollens.
  • Summer, you are probably allergic to grass and weed pollens.
  • Late summer and fall, you probably are allergic to ragweed or other weed pollens, such as tumbleweed or sage.

Always talk to your doctor about your symptoms. He or she can help you find out what allergens are causing them and where and when they are likely to be worse. When you know this, you can find ways to avoid the allergens.

For example, you may be allergic to a type of pollen that is present in a certain season or at a certain time of day. You can then decide when and how to avoid contact with these allergens while outdoors and how to prevent them from entering your home.

Test Your Knowledge

To avoid allergens, you need to:

Identify what you are allergic to.
Determine when and where you are likely to be exposed to allergens.

By avoiding or reducing your contact with outdoor allergens, you may be able to:

  • Reduce your allergy symptoms and feel much better.
  • Manage your allergy symptoms without medicine or with fewer medicines.
  • Reduce your risk of developing complications of long-term (chronic) allergic rhinitis, such as sinusitis.

Test Your Knowledge

You should try to avoid outdoor allergens because:

This may reduce your allergy symptoms.
You may be able to take fewer allergy medicines.

Avoid pollen

The following steps can help you avoid pollens. These tips can help you even if you don't know what type of pollen you are allergic to. If you do know, you can fine-tune them for that type of pollen.

  • Stay inside when pollen levels are high. Watch local weather reports for pollen counts in your area. In general, the pollen counts are lowest just after sunrise. They then begin to increase and are usually highest at midday and throughout the afternoon. They begin to decrease around sunset.
  • Keep windows and doors closed, both during the day and at night. Use air conditioning to help lower the amount of pollen that gets inside your house. Do not use a fan with an open window, as this can bring more pollen into your home.
  • Mow your grass often. If possible, have a family member or friend do it for you. If this is not possible, use antihistamines before you mow, and wear a pollen or dust mask while you mow.
  • Avoid bringing pollen back into your home when you go outdoors.
    • Take a shower and change clothing after you work or play outside.
    • Dry your clothes in a vented dryer. Do not dry them outside on a clothesline.
  • Take your vacation during the peak of the pollen season in a place where the plants you are allergic to don't grow.

Avoid mold

Mold may cause allergies that get worse in damp weather. Mold also produces spores that move around in outdoor air during warmer months. To avoid contact with mold spores:

  • Avoid going outside on rainy or windy days when mold spores may be in the air.
  • Avoid activities that expose you to molds, such as gardening (especially working with compost), mowing the lawn, or raking leaves.
  • Remove excess leaves, grass clippings, and compost from the areas close to your home.
  • Keep rain gutters and drains clear of leaves and other debris, and make sure the water from downspouts flows away from the house.
  • Use products available in auto supply stores to reduce mold that can develop in your car air conditioner.

Test Your Knowledge

Which of the following are steps you can take to avoid pollen?

Staying inside when pollen levels are high
Opening your windows to let in fresh air
Taking an antihistamine medicine

Which of the following is a good way to avoid molds?

Going outside only on rainy or windy days
Keeping excess leaves, grass clippings, and compost away from your home

Talk with your doctor

If you have questions about this information, take a printout with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes where you have questions. Your doctor may have more ideas on how to avoid contact with outdoor allergens.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last RevisedJune 30, 2011

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