Pollen Problems: How to Deal with Allergies When Hiking and Camping
Allergies And Allergic Reactions Don’t Have To Mean The End Of Your Outdoor Adventures
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Whether you suffer from severe seasonal allergies or are prone to the occasional sneezing attack when you come into contact with ragweed - you certainly don’t want to sniff and snot your way through a hike or camping trip!
An itchy nose, runny eyes, and a tight chest aren’t going to make hiking easy, and they certainly aren’t going to make spending the night outdoors a pleasant experience!
How, then, do you cope with an allergy attack or an irritation caused by environmental factors?
In this guide, we’ll help you with some tips and tricks to ensure you stay sneeze-free while enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you’re a chronic allergy sufferer or simply want to learn more about how pollen affects the body, we’re here to help you improve your knowledge of allergies from every angle and gain insight into how best to avoid them while spending time in nature.
Just remember that if you suffer from any sort of allergies it is always best to consult with a doctor. Advice from a medical professional is the best way to mitigate symptoms and address any type of allergic reaction—seasonal or otherwise.
General Allergy Avoidance Tactics Everyone Should Know
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a chronic pollen allergy to experience an uncomfortable reaction to it. In fact, as many as 60 million people in the US report feeling itchy and sneeze-y during peak pollen season—and it’s about time we learned how to best mitigate those symptoms.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to avoid feeling the effects of pollen and other allergens while spending time outdoors. Some of the most popular ones include:
Know your allergen triggers – Not everyone is allergic to the same type of pollen. Grass pollen, weed pollen, and tree pollen affect different people in different ways, so finding out which one(s) you are most sensitive to can help prevent reactions from occurring. An allergist can certainly help with this.
Learn about allergy seasons – In the US, there are different seasons when specific allergens are more prevalent. Generally, spring allergies start around February and can last all the way into summer. Tree pollination begins first, followed by flowers and grass. Ragweed pollination starts in the late summer and leads into the fall. There are plenty of online resources to help track down when your specific allergen hits the hardest.
Different states also have varying pollen counts, depending on the climate. The warmer it is, the longer and more intense the pollen season and as climate change progresses, the season gets longer too. Get to know a bit about the different pollen seasons and when the allergens are at their worst so that you can plan your outdoor activities around this.
Track your local pollen count – Today, we have the luxury of access to a variety of apps that forecast pollen levels in any given location. Utilize this as a tool for determining which dates are best to be out and about. If the pollen count is high, be proactive and prepare accordingly, and/or plan your excursion or camping trip for another time.
Avoid early morning activity – Pollen counts tend to be highest in the morning between 5 and 10 am. If you want to avoid unpleasant hay fever symptoms, it’s better to start your hike a bit later in the day. Just be sure to plan your route properly, as you don’t necessarily want to get caught on the trail in the dark!
Wear a mask – Not everyone is a fan of masks (especially after Covid!), but wearing a cotton mask or buff over your nose and mouth can help prevent pollen particles from entering your system. If pollen really affects you badly, it’s a good idea to take one along to protect your facial cavities when passing through high pollen areas. You can always take it off once you’ve moved on.
Learn which plants to avoid – Ragweed is one of the most common pollen allergens, but some others include birch, elm, tumbleweed, poplar, sagebrush, Bermuda grass, and English Plantain. Get to know what these plants look like, where they grow locally, and where they are the most prolific. Avoid them wherever possible - and whatever you do, do not touch them!
These are some of the most basic tactics for allergic reaction avoidance that everybody should be aware of. However, if you are a little more sensitive to these problematic plant particles, keep reading!
Tips For Mild Allergy Sufferers
Those of us unlucky enough to suffer more serious reactions to pollen season need to be better equipped for avoiding unpleasant congestion, itchiness and sneezing.
If you have a history of mild hay fever symptoms, the following tips may help you reduce them.
Seek out natural remedies – If your allergies lie somewhere in between minor and chronic, packing snack foods that offer natural relief might be a good idea for your outdoor excursion. Honey and lemon tea, pineapple, vitamin C, garlic, onion, and other anti-inflammatory foods have all proven to be supportive in combating common hay fever symptoms.
Look for plant-based remedies along the trail: There are a few plants that you may encounter along the way that act as natural remedies for allergies or the symptoms of allergies. Butterbur has proven to significantly improve unpleasant allergy symptoms, stinging nettles can inhibit the inflammatory events that cause allergies, and rosemary helps to fight allergy symptoms.
Knowing what these plants look like, how to find them in the wild, and how to properly utilize them can help you out when you’re in a fix. However, you must be 100% certain that you know exactly what these plants look like and how to use them. If not, you could make a bad situation worse! Making a mistake like eating stinging nettles because you think they can stop your nose running sounds particularly unpleasant… Do your homework first!
Have a plan of action – Don’t go wandering into the pollen-high wilderness unprepared. Know what your triggers are and make sure you bring along any medication, masks, tinctures, or tools to help you recover in the event of a bad reaction.
Drink lots of water – Allergies or not, drinking water while hiking or camping is always recommended for preventing dehydration. But drinking lots of water also has other benefits— it soothes allergic reactions and helps to reduce nasal dryness. Fill up that bottle!
Of course, if you notice your reactions growing worse over time, talk to your doctor to find out if there’s an allergy medication that will help to soothe your symptoms.
Tips For Chronic Allergy Sufferers
The symptoms of a chronic pollen allergy can include severe congestion, watery, itchy eyes, itchy and inflamed sinuses, postnasal drip, dry cough, compulsive sneezing, and difficulty breathing. Overall, none of these are particularly conducive to a hike or camping trip! Here are some quick tips for all the chronic allergy sufferers who love the great outdoors:
Always pack your medicine – Antihistamines are one of the most effective medications you can use against a pollen allergy. For the best results, take them before leaving the house, and then as many times as your doctor recommends throughout your outdoor trip. Pack plenty.
Plan your route meticulously – The more you know about the area you will be exploring, the easier it will be to avoid allergens, and prepare for allergic reactions when you do encounter them.
Bring a moisturizer – A soothing chapstick or moisturizer for your lips and nose can bring relief after a round of sneezing. Keep applying to avoid dryness and itchiness.
Use a saline solution – A saline solution is a mixture of purified water and iodized salt. By squirting some up your nostrils with a tincture bottle (or neti pot), you can flush out pollen particles and soothe inflammation.
Clean out your tent/equipment beforehand – If you’re camping, make sure your tent is free from any dust or pollen left over from your previous trip. Always wash your sleeping bag and any other items that you come into close contact with. Air dry them and ensure they get a good shake out too.
The last thing you want is to be coughing, sneezing, and wheezing through a beautiful outdoor adventure. Make sure you prepare for allergic reactions well in advance and have everything you need to enjoy a comfortable outdoor experience.
All in all, there are many ways to avoid the worst parts of pollen allergy season. With some trusty antihistamines, pollen-tracking apps, saline solutions and more, a large number of people can reduce their symptoms of hay fever in an accessible, effective way.
As we mentioned before, the only way to truly determine the severity of your pollen allergy is to consult with a professional. Visit a doctor to run tests to find out what level of threat you’re facing, and what precautions you should be taking. With a little bit of advance preparation, you can ensure your allergies won’t prevent you from getting outdoors as often as possible!
Guest Blogger Donna Jefferson is a writer, editor, and health and wellness enthusiast covering topics on parenting and senior health. Donna leads a fairly active lifestyle, and enjoys sweating it out at the gym or going on hikes with friends during her free time. Look for more of her writing in the weeks and months to come here on the Pathloom Blog!
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