UNC Health Care
girl with brown hair about to sneeze under blooming tree branch

Stepping Outside with Seasonal Allergies

Brett E. Dorfman, MD, at Rex Ear Nose and Throat Specialists at Wakefield is board certified in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Dorfman is also a member of the American Academy of Otolarygology and American Academy of Otoloaryngologic Allergy. The Rex ENT Specialists at Wakefield provide allergy testing and immunotherapy treatments in office or at home.

Are you experiencing constant sneezing, sniffling, stuffiness, or irritated eyes? Many people look forward to enjoying the fresh spring air, but not the common allergens that come with it. But, with proper preparation you can enjoy the great outdoors even if you suffer from seasonal allergies.

Allergans entering a person through mouth and nose.
An inhalant allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts to a normal substance that gets into your nose or mouth.

An inhalant allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts to a normal substance that gets into your nose. Your body overreacts, creating a chemical response to attack the allergen. This chemical response then causes symptoms like watery or dry eyes, constant sneezing, and/or a runny nose. The common inhalant allergens are pollen dust mites, pet dander, and naturally occurring molds.

Follow these steps suggested by Dr. Dorfman before going outside. With these tips, you can learn how to enjoy the fresh air while keeping your allergies under control.

  1. Know what you are allergic to and when. When taking precautions for your allergies, the first thing to figure out is which seasons are you might be allergic to. Typically allergies tend to be caused by:
  • Trees in the spring
  • Grass in the summer
  • Weeds in the fall
  • Mold in the winter

If you can identify which season your symptoms flare up, then there are a number of things you can do. For example, if you’re allergic to tree pollen, you can visit AAAAI.org and find daily reports on the levels of pollen and for which specific trees.

  1. Young girl sneezing on a summer day.
    Knowing what you allergic to, taking your medications and what time of day to be outside can help reduce your allergic responses.

    Find the best times to go outside. The pollen count tends to be highest around dawn and dusk, try to avoid being outside during those times of day. During days when it’s raining or shortly after rain showers, pollen gets pulled to the ground and the levels aren’t as high. And on nice sunny days, you’re going to have pretty consistently high levels of pollen.

  1. Take your recommended medications. If you plan to be outside for a long period of time, and you know you’re going to be symptomatic, be sure to take the appropriate medications beforehand. There’s not a perfect allergy medicine that resolves everyone’s symptoms, however, different types of medication are best for different things.
  • Oral antihistamines are best for treating sneezing and itching
  • Nasal steroids help control running noses and congestion
  • Newer medications such as nasal antihistamines and antihistamine eye drops help manage itchy or runny eyes
  1. Flush out pollen afterwards. After you come in from being outside, using salt water (nasal saline) will help flush out and dilute any excess pollen that’s sitting in your nose. Change into clean clothes and wash any attire that accumulated pollen from being outdoors. Scrub and rinse hands and face with soap and water to wash off pollen on your skin.

    Woman washing hands after being outside.
    Wash away pollen after coming inside: saline rinse for nose and wash hands and face with soap and water to rinse pollen off your skin.

You can learn more on which seasons cause allergy symptoms by taking an allergy test with Rex ENT Specialists at Wakefield.