Running With Seasonal Allergies

Run Symptom-Free Outdoors

If you suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever, running outdoors can be a not-so-pleasant experience. This is especially true during the times of the year when these allergens are in the air in higher numbers.

If tree pollen bothers you most, this allergen is generally higher from March to May. May through July is often worse for grass pollen and ragweed is typically highest from August to the first good frost. Of course, these timings can vary from year to year and depending on where you live.

Does this mean that you can't run outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty during these months if you have seasonal allergies? Not at all. Follow these few simple tips and you can help keep your runs allergy symptom-free.

Plan Your Runs When Pollen Counts Are Low

Runner passing flowers

The amount of pollen flying around in the air varies depending on the time of day. Being aware of when your specific allergen is at its highest levels tells you which times of day are best and which ones may be better for running indoors on a treadmill.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that, during the spring and summer months, tree and grass pollens tend to be higher in the evening hours. Ragweed, which can be more problematic in the late summer and early fall, is usually highest in the morning.

Schedule your runs so you are outdoors when these pollens are at their lowest points. You can also check your local pollen counts using websites such as

Know Your Personal Pollen Count

While some people develop allergy symptoms when pollen counts are 20 to 100 grains per cubic meter, others can tolerate much higher counts. Everyone's body is different, which is why it is helpful to understand the point at which pollen levels are likely to create issues for you.

One way to determine your own personal levels is to pay attention to the pollen counts and keep track of when you start to experience symptoms. This will give you a better idea of when you can run outdoors safely and when you should hold off.

Avoid Running on Windy Days

Research indicates that wind can carry pollen quite a long distance. For example, one study noted that ragweed pollen can be found hundreds of kilometers (100 kilometers is just over 62 miles) from its original source.

For this reason, you may want to run indoors when it's windy. It might also be beneficial to avoid running outdoors the day after high winds, since there will likely still be a lot of pollen floating around.

Run After a Rainstorm (or Not)

Pollen counts drop as the rain washes it away, so you're less likely to experience allergy symptoms after it rains. Post-rain humidity can keep pollen numbers lower for days. That makes this a great time to run if you have seasonal allergies.

Yet, rain also causes pollen particles to rupture, breaking them into smaller, finer pieces. This makes it easier for them to enter your lungs. So, should you run after a rainstorm?

If it's just a brief ran shower, you'll likely be okay. But if it rains for long periods of time or downpours, you might want to enjoy the outdoors from the window of your indoor gym.

Protect Your Eyes

If you suffer from itchy, watery eyes during allergy season, try wearing wraparound sunglasses when you run outside. This offers them a bit of protection from the allergens in the air.

If it's not that sunny and you don't want to wear dark sunglasses, you can get glasses that have clear lenses or a very low tint. This enables you to still protect your eyes yet also see your surroundings.

It is also sometimes helpful to use eyedrops about an hour before you head outside. Allergy eyedrops work by keeping your body from releasing histamines and overreacting to the allergens.

Cover Your Nose and Mouth

In addition to protecting your eyes, it is also helpful to cover your mouth and nose when running outdoors. This decreases the amount of pollen that gets into your nose and lungs. One way to do this is by wearing a face mask or bandana when you run.

If you do choose a face mask, it's best to get one with no more than two layers so you can breathe more easily while running. Cotton masks are better than polyester at stopping other things floating around in the air, like airborne viruses and pathogens, offering even more protection.

Take Your Allergy Medications Regularly

For the best results, take your allergy medications on a regular basis so you are fully protected when you do go outside. If you normally use a medicine such as an oral antihistamine pill only when you know you will be exposed to an allergen, take it a few hours before you head outdoors.

If you're unsure of the best time to take your allergy medication, talk to your doctor. They can help you decide what type of regimen is best based on your specific allergens and running schedule.

Use Your Inhaler

Approximately 60% of people diagnosed with asthma have what is called allergic asthma. Allergic asthma is when your asthma is triggered by allergens, but it causes the same types of symptoms as non-allergic asthma, which include a shortness of breath and wheezing.

If you have allergic asthma—which is diagnosed by a doctor via skin or blood tests—use your inhaler about 15 minutes before you start running. Also, make sure you warm up slowly.

Be careful not to overdo it and keep the pace easy if you think the conditions may trigger your asthma. Take your inhaler with you on your run, just in case you need it.

Shower Right After Your Run

The worst allergy symptoms usually don't occur until after you come in contact with the pollen, so you may actually be able to run outdoors without experiencing symptoms, only to start to feel the effects once you get back home.

To reduce your risk of symptoms after your run, take a shower and put on clean clothes immediately upon returning home. If you're running a race and aren't able to go straight home, or plan to run some errands after hitting the trails, take an extra set of clothes with you. This keeps you from continuing to breathe in the pollen on your running clothes.

Don't Run Outside If You're Tired

This is somewhat of a complex issue because it works both ways. Increased tiredness can lead to a more severe allergy response, yet having seasonal allergies can also make you feel more drained and fatigued.

If you're feeling tired, it may be best to skip your outdoor run. Work out indoors instead by either hitting the treadmill or doing some other form of indoor cardio at home.

If you are really tired, you may want to consider nixing exercise completely for the day. Sometimes your body needs rest more than it needs a good workout.

9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Common seasonal allergy triggers.

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  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. How does rain affect pollen levels?

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  6. Cleveland Clinic. Which drops are best for your itchy, red or dry eyes?

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  8. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergens and allergic asthma.

  9. Tamm S, Cervenka S, Forsberg, et al. Evidence of fatigue, disordered sleep and peripheral inflammation, but not increased brain TSPO expression, in seasonal allergy: a [11C]PBR28 PET study. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2018;68:146-157. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2017.10.013

Additional Reading

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.