Dr. Megan Soliman, a board certified internal medicine physician, spoke with Healthline about how to prepare for outdoor fitness activities and excursions during peak allergy seasons.

Seasonal allergies are very common. In 2021, they affected about 25% of adults in the United States.

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, includes symptoms like runny or congested nose, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, cough, and sore throat from postnasal drip.

Common outdoor allergens vary depending on the season. For instance, tree pollen is a common outdoor allergen in the early spring, and grass pollen tends to cause symptoms in the late spring to early summer. In late summer to early fall, weed pollen can be a major allergy trigger.

Molds are also common outdoor allergens. Mold spores increase as temperatures increase in the spring. Depending on a region’s climate, mold spores can peak in July through October.

It can help to keep track of what your symptoms are and when you have the most symptoms. You may notice more symptoms during a specific time of year when a particular tree or plant is growing.

However, figuring this out without allergy testing can sometimes be challenging.

Outdoor activity type can contribute to the amount of pollen you may be exposed to. For instance, running or biking at peak pollen count times can expose you to a lot of pollen due to higher wind speeds during activity. On the other hand, water activities like swimming or canoeing might limit your exposure to grass pollen.

Higher altitude activities like mountain climbing or hiking might be a good pick for high pollen count days since there tends to be less pollen at higher elevations.

Pollen counts are generally lower at higher elevations than at sea level. However, some areas in the United States may have more tree-producing pollen at higher elevations, such as in the Southwest region.

Certain geographical locations may also be less likely to expose you to allergens. For example, if you have a mold allergy, you may have fewer symptoms in a dry and sunny environment, where mold may not thrive, than in a warm, humid environment.

Pollen counts can vary depending on the time of day, so consider the timing of your activity. It may help to head outside in the late morning or evening if allergies are an issue.

Attire also matters. If you’re planning an outside activity, dress for success by wearing protective clothing such as a bandana to cover your nose and sunglasses.

Consider the weather conditions, too.

Pollen tends to cause more problems on hot, sunny, and windy days. It may not be as airborne on windless, cloudy, and rainy days. And while pollen levels may be low during rainfall, they can increase significantly once the rain stops.

Before heading out, it may be helpful to check out the National Allergy Bureau, which has daily pollen and mold counts so you can plan and prepare before you head out during allergy season.

Along with protective clothing and eyewear, it may be helpful to pack a pollen or allergy mask when you know pollen counts are high and exposure is unavoidable.

You may also benefit from packing certain medications depending on your allergy symptoms. For example, allergy eye drops can be helpful if you’re prone to itchy, watery eyes. Nasal sprays, both over-the-counter and prescription, can benefit those with nasal congestion.

Avoid having your windows down while driving to and from your outdoor excursion to limit allergen exposure.

Once home, it’s important to remove and wash clothing and shower or bathe after exposure to allergens to help reduce symptoms. You can also prevent additional pollen and mold from entering your living area by closing your windows.

Seasonal allergies shouldn’t keep you from enjoying outdoor activities and focusing on physical fitness. Physical activity has a wide range of benefits. One small 2018 study even suggested that exercise may lead to an improvement in allergic rhinitis symptoms.

Dr. Megan Soliman is an ABMS board certified internal medicine physician whose main focus in her clinical practice is patient advocacy. Her research interests include adverse effects of medications and herbal supplements. Dr. Soliman is enthusiastic about “bread and butter” medicine, which includes treating patients with the most common diseases. She also has a passion for reaching underserved communities, including both U.S. and international rural communities.