Small but potent: It's an apt description for pollen, those microscopic particles that can turn a refreshing spring hike into an itchy, wheezy sneezefest. Allergies don't have to ruin a trip, says Dr. Jeffrey Rumbyrt, a Golden, CO-based allergist who has treated thousands of sufferers in the last 12 years.
He recommends a two-part defense. First, pack a nasal spray or antihistamine. Second, block pollen from entering your sinuses. It's the key to preventing an attack or minimizing the impact of one, says Dr. Rumbyrt. He suggests these techniques.
Wear shades Sunglasses help shield your eyes from pollen. If you normally wear contacts, put your glasses on instead. "Contact lenses can harbor allergens in the eyes," says Dr. Rumbyrt.
Rinse Every few hours, or at minimum after your hike, splash your face with water to flush particles from your nose and eyes (or use eye drops). If allergies hit you hard, carry a bottle of saline wash (%frac12; teaspoon salt to 4 ounces water) and sniff it up your nose.
Humidify Go outlaw-tie a damp bandana around your nose and mouth to block pollen. The moisture makes breathing easier.
Pack a comb "The hair is a great reservoir for pollen," says Dr. Rumbyrt. Use a wet brush so the pollen will cling to it.
Clean up Wash with water and shed your outer layers before climbing into your bag. A few hours away from pollen will do wonders.
Sleep in Pollen dispersal peaks between 5 and 10 a.m. But dewy mornings and rainy days are an allergy sufferer's best friend-damp pollen doesn't fly.
Take breaks If you start wheezing mid-hike, rest. Continuing the trek when you're out of breath can worsen symptoms, cautions Dr. Rumbyrt.