12 Tips for Reducing Pollen Exposure

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ragweed, a common allergen

The seasons are changing—and bringing with them allergy-causing pollen. In early spring, tree pollens are often a big problem for people with seasonal allergies. By late spring and summer, grass pollens kick in. And by late summer and autumn, weed pollens bring a fresh round of misery.

Pollens are microscopic grains that play a key role in plant fertilization. If you’re allergic to specific pollens, being around them can trigger the telltale signs of an allergy attack:

  • A runny or stuffy nose

  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears, throat, or roof of the mouth

  • Red, watery eyes

  • Sneezing

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to ease these symptoms. Ask your doctor about allergy medicines and allergy shots. Then take these steps to minimize your exposure to pollen:

  1. Keep pollen outside where it belongs. Close the windows in your home and car. Keep outdoor pets from bringing pollen indoors.

  2. Run the air conditioner when you can, which helps clean the air indoors. Avoid window fans, which just bring more pollen into your home.

  3. Check the local pollen count on allergy websites, such as the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, or in weather reports. Then limit the time you spend outside on high-pollen days.

  4. Wear a pollen mask if you must be outside for a long time when pollen levels are high. That’s particularly important if your allergy symptoms are severe.

  5. Avoid planning outdoor activities for early in the morning, when pollen levels tend to peak. Pollen levels may also be elevated on hot, dry, breezy days.

  6. Be aware that pollen can cling to your skin, hair, and clothing. Take a shower and wash your hair when you come inside after an extended period outdoors. Change into clean clothes, and toss the dirty ones into the washing machine. A rinse only, no-soap shower before bedtime will help keep the pollen out of your bed. 

  7. Don’t hang clothes or sheets outside to dry. Use a clothes dryer instead.

  8. Vacuum weekly, which helps remove some of the pollen that’s carried inside on people and pets. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or HEPA filter.

  9. Know what’s growing in your lawn. Some types of grass—such as Bermuda grass, Johnson grass, and rye grass—are more likely to cause allergy problems. Consider replacing them with ground covers that don’t produce much pollen, such as bunchgrass, dichondra, or Irish moss.

  10. Have someone else mow the lawn, if possible. Keep it cut short.

  11. Choose less allergenic plants for your garden as well. Luckily, plants with colorful or scented flowers—such as the dahlia, daisy, geranium, rose, snapdragon, and tulip—produce heavy, waxy pollen that isn’t made to go airborne. They’re usually a good choice for people with pollen allergies.

  12. Avoid touching your face when working in the garden or yard. When done, leave your gardening gloves and tools outside.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 28

  1. Allergies & Gardening. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/allergy-friendly-gardening

  2. Cleaning Tips for Allergy and Asthma Sufferers. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/cleaning-tips-for-allergy-an...

  3. Controlling Hay Fever Symptoms with Acccurate Pollen Counts. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/hay-fever-pollen-counts

  4.  Outdoor Allergens. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/outdoor-allergens

  5. Enjoy the Season: Manage Your Allergies. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/anonymous.portal?_nfpb=true&_nfto=false&_pageLabel=spotli...

  6. Pollen Allergy. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/allergicdiseases/documents/pollenallergyfactsheet.pdf

  7. Allergens and Irritants. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/allergens/

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