It’s that time of year again when seasonal allergies can put a real crimp in your regular exercise routine, especially if you prefer to exercise outdoors. But it doesn’t have to. With a little planning and some no-nonsense strategies, you can exercise outdoors while keeping seasonal allergy symptoms on the sidelines.
Allergy triggers – to know them is to conquer them.
If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor about performing tests to identify the allergens responsible for your seasonal allergy symptoms. Mold spores and pollen from grasses, trees and weeds are some of the most common outdoor culprits. Customize your workouts to avoid times of day and weather conditions when there are increased levels of allergens and other irritants in the air.
If you are sensitive to mold spores, exercise outdoors during the evening and early-morning. Mold levels increase higher after the sun fully rises and causes the spores on plants to evaporate into the air.
If the weather is dry and windy, pollen levels are likely to be high so avoid outdoor exercise in those conditions. The wind is usually calmer in the early morning and late evening. If you don’t want to give up your outdoor run, adjust your schedule to include times when pollen levels are not at their peak.
Some forms of plant pollen are produced at higher levels during certain times of day. Ragweed pollen, for example is highest in the late morning to early afternoon, so plan your run to avoid those times.
To find out the levels of various common allergens in your area, such as molds, weeds, trees and grasses check with websites like www.aaaai.org, provided by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or listen to your local weather forecasts.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that if you have seasonal allergies or asthma, you should avoid exercising where high levels of allergens are found, like fields, dusty trails, parks or streets with a great number of trees, busy roads and factories.
Be prepared for allergy season with a proactive approach.
If you are planning to exercise outside during the height of allergy season and you have mild to moderate allergy symptoms (experiencing them only two to three days a week) be sure to have an over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamine to take before you go out.
If your seasonal allergy symptoms are more severe, talk to your doctor about whether a prescription medication, such as a nasal steroid, would be more effective. It is often recommended that you start these medications before allergy season begins to decrease your body’s immune response to seasonal allergens.
Wear sunglasses during outdoor exercise to help protect your eyes from exposure to pollen and other allergens.
Follow some common sense tips to lessen exposure to outdoor allergens.
When exercising outdoors, be sure to breathe through your nose, not your mouth and if you are at risk of having a severe allergic response, work out with a partner who knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Shower immediately after an outdoor workout to remove allergens and keep from transferring them to your car or taking them home with you. If you can’t shower, use facial wipes and rinse out your nose with saline spray and your eyes with eye drops.
Change your clothes before you get into your car or enter your home, and immediately toss them in the laundry. Wipe off any exercise equipment or mats you use outside.
Stay hydrated. If you are coping with seasonal allergies during hot, humid weather, it’s especially important to drink plenty of water.
Be good to yourself.
Consider other forms of exercise on particularly problematic days for allergy sufferers. Consider swimming, spin class, yoga, or another indoor exercise option to keep you moving when seasonal allergens or poor air quality conditions are at their peak. The point of exercise is to stay fit, not put yourself at risk of an allergy attack that could curtail your overall activity.