At last—the warm days of spring! Time to put the bike trainer back in the attic, hit the open trails, and…sneeze.
For those with seasonal allergies, early-season training can be a challenge. Seasonal triggers like mold and pollen can create a host of symptoms: inflammation in the airways, runny nose, itchy throat, coughing and shortness of breath. Exercise adds to the stress placed on the airways, says Dr. Mark Millard, a pulmonologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and the Medical Director of the Martha Foster Lung Care Center.
“If your airways are already inflamed [from allergy triggers], you can imagine how exercise during your peak allergy season can really bring some athletes to a screeching halt.”
For most, allergy symptoms can be minimized with simple precautions. Don’t let the sniffles derail your training—get a jump-start on seasonal allergies with these simple tips:
Know Your Triggers
If you notice symptoms of allergies every year, visit an allergist. This doctor, who has specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, can perform specialized testing to help you identify just what you’re allergic to. This, in turn, can ensure you’re getting the right treatment.
“Skin or blood tests for allergies can help pinpoint the seasons where medication may be needed, or if allergies are present at all,” says Millard, who warns that not all allergy symptoms are caused by the seasonal triggers many assume. “Many of the allergens that increase airway inflammation leading to exercise-triggering are actually indoors: cats, dogs, dust mites and mold can really set the stage for a bad attack outdoors, because of the inflammation set up by daily exposure to these allergens.”
Be Proactive With Treatment
Whether you take an over-the-counter medication, seek out prescription treatments, or utilize a holistic approach, it’s best to get ahead of your allergies. Start treatment as early in the year as possible—even if there’s still snow on the ground – to allow the treatment to build up your defenses.
Keep The Outdoors Out
Though many allergy sufferers know to keep the windows closed, many of them don’t realize allergens are tracked in through other channels. Keep the outdoors from coming inside by removing clothing after workouts and placing in the laundry immediately. Shower, too, to avoid transferring allergens on your skin and hair to indoor surfaces such as couch cushions and bedding.
Check The Weather
“When the wind is calm, fewer allergens are blowing,” says Millard, who encourages athletes to exercise outdoors in the early-morning or late-evening hours whenever possible. Check the pollen count before going outside at your local weather station or Pollen.com, where you can get allergy forecasts for your area. When your triggers or wind speeds are extremely high, hit the treadmill or indoor trainer instead.
Know When To Say When
Though many allergy symptoms can be managed well, sometimes symptoms fast-track to illness. Sinus infections are common with allergy sufferers, as are severe headaches and congestion. In these circumstances, dialing back your training will accelerate recovery, as training may compromise your body’s ability to fight off infection.
“If you feel sick or tired all the time, and you know you’re not a victim of overtraining, then that’s when you need to see your local healthcare provider for a check-up,” says Millard. “The bottom line: you don’t need to practice medicine on yourself. Check things out with your healthcare provider.”
Join in the conversation about everything swim, bike and run. “Like” us on Facebook.