All you want to do is enjoy a nice relaxing run, but your itchy eyes, runny nose, and a constant cough refuse to allow it. Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce your suffering. Experts recommend that you work with an allergist in order to find out what allergens irritate you most, the best method of treatment, and whether or not your allergies are exercise-induced rather than a result of pollen or mold in the air. But in addition to consulting your doctor, the following tips can help you manage your seasonal allergies so that you can actually enjoy your outdoor workouts.
Yes, medicine is an obvious allergy solution, but especially for those who plan on exercising outside, it’s important to choose the right kind. Dr. Stephen Klemawesch, owner of Allergy-Associates in Petersburg, Fla. told Runner’s World that pretreating allergies by taking meds before a run is a smart relief strategy, but that you should avoid “first-generation” anti-histamines like Benadryl because they cause drowsiness and may “dry you out.” He suggested using brands like Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec and also recommended nasal-sprays like Nasalcrom and even prescription topical nasal antihistamines like Astepro and Patanase. Additionally, WebMD suggests that you consult a doctor about how to use your allergy medicines most effectively, since some take longer than others to start working.
According to WebMD, some research suggests that certain foods may help relieve allergy symptoms for some people by helping to minimize inflammation in the body. Nutritional experts Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD and David Leopold, MD suggested eating foods like salmon because its high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce inflammation and improve lung function; soups with clear broth, which may help to thin mucus and clear nasal passages; and fresh produce, like berries, potatoes, and kale, which offer a wide variety of antioxidants that may also help to reduce inflammation.
Klemawesch told Runner’s World that it may be best to plan your workouts for the end of the day because pollen levels tend to be higher in the morning. He also said that it’s best to run after it has rained or snowed because the moisture sometimes helps to minimize pollen. However, this advice doesn’t apply to exercisers who are allergic to mold because moisture will intensify its presence.
Of course, wind stirs up pollen and other irritants in the air, so if your allergies are particularly troublesome it’s a good idea to avoid working out outside on very windy days.
You may also want to consider taking your workout for the day inside if the reported pollen or mold counts for the day are exceptionally high. According to Runner’s World, you can refer to sites like pollen.com, weather.com, and aaaai.org (the National Allergy Bureau's site) to find daily stats for your local area.
It’s a simple and pretty obvious trick, but wearing a hat with a visor and that fully covers your head will help to prevent particles from getting in your eyes and hair.
In addition to a hat, wearing sunglasses (preferably the kind that fit snugly and wrap around your face) is another simple measure you can take to help prevent pesky particles from getting in your eyes.
Avoid tracking pollen and other irritants inside by making a habit of taking your shoes off before heading back into your house. If possible, you might also want to consider removing as many articles of clothing as possible before heading inside, or at least confining your workout clothes to the laundry room.
Klemawesch told Runner’s World that it’s a smart idea to shower immediately after your workout because the longer you wait, the longer your allergy symptoms will likely stick around. He also mentioned that shampooing is a must, because pollen is especially attracted to the protein molecules in hair.
The last step in your anti-allergy routine should be to wash your workout clothes as soon and as often as possible. Klemawesch told Runner’s World that damp and sweaty clothing tends to pick up more pollen, and the sooner you can clean it off, the better.