‘Tis the Sneezon

I’m one of those people who obsessively planned for the trail for months and months before I set foot on Springer Mountain. I have spreadsheets on spreadsheets that tell me everything from my current base weight to where my next resupply box is coming.

However, there’s one thing I didn’t plan for because I knew it was going to happen, but I vowed that it wouldn’t stop me.

Since I was in high school, every year I’ve dreaded the arrival of spring. For me, the mention of spring doesn’t conjure images of beautiful flowers and sunny days, but rather rivers of yellow flowing down the sidewalks and a fine mist of powder covering everything. As soon as the weather turns warm and nature starts coming alive again, I turn into a sneezing, snotty, itchy-eyed wreck. I have nightmares about pollen.

When I was first starting to get really bad allergies, I made an appointment to get a scratch test to see which plants in particular I was allergic to. Flowers? Nope. Grasses? Not really. Trees? Yes. I am allergic to almost every single type of tree that they test for. That section of the scratch test swelled like I had just been bitten by a thousand mosquitos.

But, Zoë, isn’t the entire Appalachian Trail covered by trees?

Yes. Now you see where this is going. The one thing I refused to let stop me is allergies. I threw a ziploc full of Zyrtec-D and a bottle of Flonase into my pack and hoped for the best.

I’m writing this now that allergy season is hopefully almost over. I am writing to let fellow allergy sufferers know that there is (sort of) hope. While I was actually hiking (with the exception of a few days) I never had a problem. It’s almost as if the extra physical exertion somehow helped me build a 6-10 hour tolerance. I was able to breathe easy and was rarely overtaken by sneezing fits. My trouble arose when I would get to camp. Stopping for the day turned on my nose-faucet and started a chorus of sneezes that my trail family still teases me about.

Another way the Appalachian Trail can make allergies hard is the changes in elevation. In Tennessee and Southern Virginia, you can be up on a ridge where buds have barely started to grow, and then descend into a town where trees are fully leafed out and green has covered all the barren trees.

It’s surprising to me that my allergies weren’t worse while I’ve been out here. That doesn’t mean that I’ve enjoyed sneezing my way through April and May, though. It’s been two months of allergies and I’m hoping it’s almost over.

Have any advice for allergy sufferers who also want to enjoy the outdoors? Please, please share in the comments!


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Comments 4

  • C.C. Hikes : Jun 2nd

    Zoë, try Allegra. It’s $1 per day, but it’s worth it. I have terrible allergies and take Singulair via prescription. In the spring and fall, I have to double up with Allegra. It’s the only over the counter allergy med that actually works

    Best wishes!

    • Zoë Symon : Jun 3rd

      Thanks for the tip! I used to take prescription Singulair too. These days I have to switch every year because the medication that worked for me the previous year never seems to work for me again! Perhaps I’ll have to give Allegra a try next allergy season.

  • Autodraft : Jun 3rd

    You can use Striped Maple leaves to blow your nose – they’re all over the place on most of the trail!


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