Warren Filley knows just how his patients feel when they ask for strategies
that offer relief for allergies while working and playing outside. The Oklahoma
City allergist is also an avid gardener who developed seasonal allergies while
he was in medical school.
“There are a number of tips and tricks you can use to help reduce your
exposure to grasses, pollens, and other allergens and still enjoy the
outdoors,” he says.
Friendly Flora for Allergies
It’s rough when the plants you love don’t love you back, and instead torment
you with sneezes and hay fever. How can you work in the yard when the yard is
chock-full of allergens?
You can choose plants for your garden that will minimize allergen exposure.
Some allergy-friendly plants include irises, hyacinths, hibiscus, roses, and
daisies. Steer clear of more highly allergenic plants like timothy grass and
Also, choose what you really love to do in the garden. Some people
may enjoy mowing the grass, but many don’t — and it kicks up an enormous
amount of allergens such as grass pollen and the mold that’s picked up by the
“If you can hire someone else to do the mowing, and don’t spend time outside
while the lawn is being mowed, that will provide a lot of relief,” he
When working in the yard, you can use an allergy relief mask designed to
prevent inhaling allergens. Cheap, disposable paper versions are available
everywhere from pharmacies to lawn and garden centers.
James Sublett, MD, an allergist in Louisville, Ky., recommends using one
that’s rated at least N95 by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and
Health. “These filter particles small as 0.3 microns, including dust mites,
pollen, and mold spores,” he says.
Timing Activities for Allergies
In addition, you may be able to select your outdoor activities based on the
time of year your allergies are most active.
“If you’re sensitive to specific types of plants that have certain seasons,
you’re fine if you’re not out as much during those seasons,” says Filley. “In
the spring in most parts of the U.S., there’s about a month when grass is
pollinating. If that’s the only thing that really triggers your allergies —
or, say, ragweed in the fall — then you may be just fine outside nine or 10
months out of the year.”
For example, if grass pollen troubles you, choose a soccer league that has
an early-fall season rather than a spring-season lacrosse group.
Allergy Apparel: What to Wear
Whether you’re gardening, playing sports, or just going for a walk outdoors,
dress to repress allergies. It can be tempting on warm summer days to wear as
little as possible, but if you’re going to be digging up plants or kicking up
grass on the soccer field, that’s a recipe for sneezes.
“Skimpy clothing means more exposure to plant material,” says Filley.
“Instead, wear lightweight clothing that still covers you, like long pants and
long-sleeved shirts.” Clothes that you’ve been gardening in, or playing outdoor
sports in, should be thoroughly laundered after every exposure.