Getting Shortness of Breath Outdoors? It Might Be Seasonal Allergies

Enjoy more of the great outdoors by learning about seasonal allergy triggers, and ways to minimize your exposure to these allergens.

Do you love the great outdoors, but find yourself suffering from shortness of breath when outside? This could be a result of outdoor allergies , such as those triggered by haze/ pollution, mold , or pollen . While these allergens can be difficult to avoid because it seems like they’re everywhere, there are things you can do to minimize your exposure to them.

SEASONAL ALLERGY SYMPTOMS

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RUNNY NOSE
itchy, watery eyes icon
ITCHY, WATERY EYES
outlined nose sneezing
SNEEZING
outline of an itchy nose or throat
ITCHY NOSE OR THROAT
illustration of nasal decongestion
NASAL CONGESTION
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Air pollution, shortness of breath, and allergies

Air pollution causes dust, smoke and other dry particulates to reduce the clarity of the sky.2 In Southeast Asia, large-scale air pollution caused by agricultural fires and deforestation in Indonesia usually occurs from late August to November. This pollution often travels to neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia and sometimes to other Asian countries like the Philippines and Thailand.3

Being exposed to the particulates in air pollution can aggravate allergies, resulting in shortness of breath and other unpleasant symptoms. The tiny pollution particles can easily be inhaled into the lungs, which can affect breathing.4

Tips4 for those with allergies during periods of high air pollution

  • Monitor
    Keep an eye on the Pollutants Severity Index (PSI). When it goes high, you should take extra precautions such as those listed below.
     
  • Keep shut
    Stay indoors and keep your doors and windows closed as much as possible.
     
  • Stay hydrated and healthy
    Drink plenty of fluids and eat lots of foods that are high in antioxidants that will help keep your body and immune system healthy.
     
  • Purify
    If possible, use a portable air purifier to help neutralize and minimize pollutant particles that might creep indoors.
     
  • Mask up
    If you are heading outdoors, wear a well-fitted N95 mask which can filter very fine particles, helping reduce the possibility of symptoms like shortness of breath.
    However, watch out for any allergic symptoms that may arise from wearing the mask. If you feel you are allergic to the fabric of the mask, try a different kind of mask.
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Pollen Allergies

Pollen is a powdery substance produced and released by the male part of a flower. Pollen allergies, also known as hay fever and seasonal allergic rhinitis , are very common. They are triggered by pollen spores, which are typically dry, lightweight and small in nature, which makes it easy for the wind to carry them everywhere.5

The atmospheric pollen population in Quezon City is usually heaviest in November and December, while the pollen population in Los Banos is heaviest in January, February, March, April, June and November. Baguio City, on the other hand, experiences heavy pollen population from February-May and in September and October.6

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DID YOU KNOW?

Some types of mold form colonies which can be seen with the naked eye, while others can only be viewed under a microscope. Hence, it is important to note that not being able to see mold spores at first glance doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not there!

Tips for Pollen Allergy Sufferers

  • Beat the bloom
    Plan outdoor activities for when the count of the type of pollen you’re allergic to is at its lowest. For example, pollen from grass tend to be higher in the late afternoon and evening.7
     
  • Cover up
    Wear a face mask when working in the garden or performing chores outdoors.
     
  • Switch up your routine
    Pollen spores can stick to your shoes, clothing or hair when you are outdoors. To prevent these spores from entering your house, be sure to remove your shoes, take a quick shower and change your clothes to remove all traces of pollen spores from your person.
     
  • Clear the air
    When driving, keep the windows up and set the air conditioner mode to "air recirculation". At home, keep your windows closed and turn on the air-conditioner. It is important to make sure that the air-conditioner filter is replaced regularly.
  • Grow smart
    Some types of grass tend to produce more pollen spores than others. These allergy -causing grasses include Bermuda, Smut and Windmill grass, and Bluegrass. As an alternative, opt to plant female buffalo grass instead. Female buffalo grass does not flower, and therefore produces little to no pollen. Avoid planting Amaranth, Tiliaceae, or Asteraceae in your garden or yard, as these flowering plants are all known for causing allergies to flare up. Do not hesitate to ask your local garden center for more information before making a purchase decision.
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Mold Allergies

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “molds include all species of microscopic fungi.” Like pollen , microscopic mold spores which float in the air could trigger a mold allergy that is accompanied by a number of different allergy symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, mold is not only present in an indoor environment, but also thrives in shady and damp areas outside, such as soil, plants, rotting wood, compost piles or dead leaves.

As such, mold-related allergies may be more common all-year round in warmer climates, especially in countries such as the Philippines, which experiences a mixture of hot and humid weather, with a typically wet season from June to October, and a dry season from November to May.

Tips for Mold Allergy Sufferers

  • Leave it outside
    Like pollen , mold spores, too, can stick to your shoes, clothing or hair when you are outdoors. So, before you come back inside, take your shoes off and leave them outside. Also remember to take a quick shower and change your clothes to prevent mold spores from entering your home. If you’re pressed for time, be sure to, at the very least, wash your hands and face thoroughly after entering the house.
     
  • Rake and sweep
    Mold spores can thrive in piles of dead, fallen leaves. Therefore, it is important for you to rake your yard often. However, raking can cause mold spores to linger in the air, which is why it is important for you to wear a protective mask while performing this chore. You can also choose to enlist the help of a family member or friend who isn’t allergic to mold spores
     
  • Mask mold spores
    Drink plenty of fluids and eat lots of foods that are high in antioxidants that will help keep your body and immune system healthy.
     
  • Purify
    If possible, use a portable air purifier to help neutralize and minimize pollutant particles that might creep indoors.
     
  • Mask up
    It is advisable for you to wear a N95 mask that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration Philippines, which will help to minimize your exposure to mold spores when cutting grass, raking leaves or digging around plants. These masks can be purchased from drug stores and home supply centers.
     
  • Skip the line
    Mold spores can also stick to bedding or clothing that is hung out to dry on a clothesline. As an alternative, opt to use a dryer instead.

Keep Allergy Medication On-Hand

Manage your allergy symptoms with an antihistamine , such as Loratadine (Claritin®), which works in as fast as 15 minutes9, is non-drowsy10,11 vs. first-generation antihistamines and cetirizine, and lasts up to 24 hours11. Try Loratadine (Claritin® RediTabs®), which you can take without water – a convenient option for when you’re outdoors and on-the-go.

IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR.
ASC Ref. Code: B252P032922CS

REFERENCES

  1. Outdoor Allergens. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Reviewed on September 28, 2020. Retrieved on December 9, 2021 from https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/outdoor-allergens-ttr
  2. Basic Information about Visibility. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved on December 09, 2021 from https://www.epa.gov/visibility/basic-information-about-visibility
  3. COVID-19, Southeast Asian Haze, and Socioenvironmental-Epidemiological Feedbacks. Smith, T., Varkey, S. Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre/ London School of Economics and Political Science. Published on September 16, 2020. Retrieved on November 29, 2021 from https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/seac/2020/09/16/covid-19-southeast-asian-haze/
  4. Haze in Singapore: Effects on Your Sinus Problems. Lim, K.H. Health Plus – Mount Elizabeth Hospitals. Retrieved on December 9, 2021 from https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/healthplus/article/haze-sinus-health
  5. Pollen Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved on November 29, 2021 from https://www.aafa.org/pollen-allergy/
  6. Pollen allergens in bronchial asthma in the Philippines. Cua-Lim, F. Journal of the Philippine Medical Association/ Herdin Plus. Retrieved on November 29, 2021 from https://www.herdin.ph/index.php?view=research&cid=21902
  7. Ragweed Pollen Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved on December 9, 2021 from https://www.aafa.org/ragweed-pollen/
  8. What is a skin allergy?. Intermountain Healthcare. Published 2018. Retrieved on February 3, 2022 from https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/dermatology/conditions/skin-allergy/
  9. Sur, Denise K C, and Monica L Plesa. “Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis .” American family physician vol. 92,11 (2015): 985-92.
  10. Kawauchi, H.; Yanai, K.; Wang, D.-Y.; Itahashi, K.; Okubo, K. Antihistamines for Allergic Rhinitis Treatment from the Viewpoint of Nonsedative Properties. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 213. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20010213
  11. Haria, Malini, et al. “Loratadine.” Drugs, vol. 48, no. 4, 1994, pp. 617–637., https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-199448040-00009.