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The Flowers Are Flourishing, Are You?

If you have experienced the south during the spring, you’re familiar with the yellow blanket that coats every surface. The weather is beautiful, but the pollen is an ever-present barrier to participating in outdoor activities. The question is how does one safely engage in outdoor hobbies (exercise, gardening, yardwork, etc.) when the world is seeing yellow?

Allergist-immunologist David M. Lang, MD, states allergy season lasts for much of the year. Tree pollen peaks at the beginning of spring in March, April, and the first half of May, while the grass pollen peaks mid-May through early-to-mid-July. The ragweed pollen peaks from mid-August until the first frost.

The last thing we want to do is lock ourselves inside from March until the first frost. To avoid this, here are a few tips and tricks to navigate the outdoors during pollen season:

1) Determine the pollen count: There are several resources available to the public that provide pollen counts for all locations in the US (The Weather Channel, local news, Weather Bug). Consult these resources before beginning outdoor activities to allow for appropriate planning and preparation.

2) Get outdoors after a good rain shower: The hours following a rain shower are the best time to get outside since the pollen count is reduced. The pollen count begins to rise again as the foliage dries and the pollen is more easily displaced.

3) Consider lower intensity exercise when the pollen count is high: Lower intensity exercise does not increase the rate of breathing to the extent that higher intensity exercise does. Because of this, it is more advantageous to perform exercises and activities that don’t induce heavy breathing.

4) Be especially careful if you have asthma: Pollen has the potential to trigger asthmatic episodes. To mitigate this risk, use your inhaler (if you have one) 10-30 minutes before exercising. On days with a high pollen count, consider exercising indoors if you have been diagnosed with asthma or have a history of asthma attacks.

5) Exercise in the morning: In the morning hours, the dew is still suppressing the pollen that has settled on the grass and in the trees. As the day goes on, the number of pollen spores that are floating around in the air increases as the dew dries and the weather warms up.

6) Avoid windy days: As you can imagine, the wind tends to stir up pollen that has been lying dormant on blades of grass and on leaves. Choosing days that are less windy is more beneficial for limiting pollen exposure.

Don’t forget: exercising indoors is still an option when the pollen count is not on your side. Hop on a treadmill or elliptical, ride the indoor bike, lift some weights, get your blood pumping, and stay safe!

References and helpful resources:

1. The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy. Living With Allergies. The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy. Accessed April 2021.

2. Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials. How Long Does Allergy Season Last? Accessed April 2021.

Written by Dr. Rachel Taylor, PT, DPT


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