Unless you are visiting Antarctica during the winter months, it is pretty hard to escape pollen. After all, it has the ability to travel high and travel far by hitching rides on wind currents as well as on the bodies of insects, birds and even fruit bats. But that’s not all. If you leave your pollen dense area with lots of the clingy stuff on your hair and clothes, you get to transport your own personal allergens to your new geographic location. The better news is that a good shower and pollen-free hotel room in a low or non-seasonal pollen area will help to free you from your sneezing, itching and runny nose.
How Would I Know If I Have Seasonal Allergies?
Hmm, let me count the annoying ways. Seasonal allergies tend to occur at certain times of the year, and the first sign is often how many tissues are in your pocket. That’s because allergic rhinitis or "hay fever" often causes a fairly constant runny or stuffy nose. Add to that frequent sneezing, itchy nose and throat, postnasal drip with coughing and even itchy and burning eyes, and sure enough, your body is letting you know it is irritated. Some people with seasonal allergies may even develop asthma or experience an asthma symptom “flare” during their allergy season.
Is Any Area of Our Country Free from Pollen?
The time of year seasonal allergy symptoms appear depends upon where you live and your sensitivity to that particular pollen. For example, springtime in the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern section of the United States brings pollen from trees such as oak, maple, juniper and elm. When early summer arrives, so does pollen from grasses such as bluegrass, timothy and orchard grass. In the later part of the summer and during the fall, ragweed greets allergic individuals with a blast of pollen.
However, for those who live in the Western part of the country, some species of trees release pollen from December through March. In the Southwest, the pollinating season for grasses may last from early spring through early summer. In the fall, pollen from weeds such as sagebrush and Russian thistle can be found all over the place (clothes, car, home, office and even on your outdoor pet).
And, to add even more allergic insult, no matter what part of the country you travel, mold spores can be airborne from the spring all the way through late fall, while indoor mold can be a problem during the winter months as it will grow anywhere there is moisture (bathroom tile, carpet, basements, etc.) So, while pollen allergies tend to be seasonal, mold allergies have the potential to last year-round in those who are allergic to it. Needless to say, depending upon what pollens or mold spores you are allergic to, your personal allergy season may greet you upon arrival at your travel destination.
You Can Run But Cannot Hide - Tips to Decrease Your Seasonal Allergy Flare While Traveling
Defeat the sneeze with the following suggestions:
- Check the pollen (tree, grass, weeds) counts at your intended destination.
- Pack your medications (antihistamines, steroid nasal spray, antihistamine eye drops, etc) as well as keep one full days supply inside your carry-on bag. Be sure to have copies of prescriptions just in case your medications are lost or refills are needed.
- Speak with your doctor ahead of time to develop an allergy action plan to better prepare you to decrease and/or prevent your allergy symptoms. This is especially important if you also have asthma.
- Bring saline nasal spray to keep your nostrils moist during the airplane trip. Use once per hour. Additionally, saline nasal spray can help to decrease the pollen in your nostrils as it acts as a type of nasal “car wash” - this in turn can decrease your sneezing and runny nose.
- Try to minimize outdoor activity when pollen levels are at their peak. This is usually between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., as well as on dry and windy days.
- Plan pollen getaways by vacationing near the beach or by taking a cruise.
- Shower and wash your hair every night. This will help rinse off the pollen and mold spores it collected during the day.
- Keep your vacation home and car windows closed, and use an air conditioner. Change the filters often.
- If you have mold allergies and are staying in a hotel, ask for a room that is sunny and far away from the pool. Also, avoid using the hotel closet or drawers, as these dark areas are sometimes damp and create ideal places for mold spores.
- For general allergy prevention, ask the hotel if they have “allergy-free” rooms. These may have mattress and synthetic pillow covers, as well as floors without carpets.
Even when the pollen count is high, you can still have sniffle and symptom-free days. Just ask for directions to air-conditioned indoor attractions such as museums, historical buildings, amusement and recreational activities, and even tour bus rides. When all is said and done, allergies don't have to put a damper on your vacation.