The thrill, and agony, of spring!! Agony? Yes, if seasonal allergies are not under control, they can wreak havoc on your runs. Not only are seasonal allergy symptoms annoyingly bothersome, they can lead to illness. To best enjoy the amazing spring weather, remember these tips when running with seasonal allergies.
Seasonal Allergies Impact Your Running – Here’s How
Seasonal allergies from airborne substances, such as pollen appear, at different times of the year. Timing depends on geography/location, but there’s some general predictability: spring for trees, summer for grass/weeds, and fall for Ragweed.
With seasonal allergies, nose passages and sinuses swell as they attempt to flush out allergens you encounter while running, or when you’re outdoors. Common symptoms:
- Eye irritation (itchy/watery), sneezing, post-nasal drip, runny nose and sinus congestion
Ensure your running is not sidelined by seasonal allergies with these tips.
Protection while running:
- Wear a HAT. Not only does it shield your eyes, but your hair attracts airborne particles. Plus, hair spray/gel are downright magnetic and have a death grip on pollen. It may be best to use hats that you can occasionally launder.
- Wear SUNGLASSES. Sunglasses are not only great for UV protection, but allergens can seriously impact your eyes as well. Wrap-around styles will give the most protection, but any pair is better than none.
Protection post run:
- Change your clothes and shower!
David Erstein, M.D., a NY-based allergist and immunologist states, “Get out of those workout clothes ASAP and shower as soon as you get home. Pollens can stick to you, and changing and showering will minimize residual and continuous exposure.” This includes washing your hair.
Time of Day for Your Run Matters
- Avoid peak levels of pollen/irritants. Normally 5-10 a.m. and at dusk. Possibly go for a run at lunch, or shortly after work before dusk hits.
- Enjoy the rain, or shortly after. A run in the rain, or shortly after, provides some benefit as the irritants are literally washed away.
- Windy days make you more winded. More pollen is kicked up on windy days! Avoid if possible.
- Check local pollen counts at sites such as pollen.com, and keep track of when you experience allergy symptoms. This helps determine what level is tolerable for you.
More Tips for Running with Allergies
Treadmill Runs. Quite simply, there’s less irritants indoors, and this may be the best option if allergies are getting the better of you.
Saline Spray: Natural Allergy Relief! While saline spray is non-medicinal, it’s effective at removing pollen and irritants from your nasal lining. Timing of use can vary, but some recommend later in the day/after a run to remove the irritants. My favorite is Simply Saline. I typically use it in the shower in the morning.
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Medications to provide relief.
If you still need a boost to manage your allergy symptoms, some over-the-counter meds are below; generic is available for all brands.
- An antihistamine: Zyrtec or Xyzal can help manage both seasonal allergies, plus other allergies (ie: mold). Timing: given how these meds’ efficacy peaks, taking them at dinner time/before bed seems to better best control symptoms.
- A corticosteroid nasal spray such as Flonase is a good option. Note, a recent study states that using an antihistamine with a corticosteroid nasal spray was most effective for the study’s participants in managing their symptoms.
- I use Aquaphor with the nasal spray to keep the nasal passages moist (just inside each nostril, or nare).
- Eye drops provide relief for itchy, watery eyes. Options are artificial tears drops, or an antihistamine eye drop like Pataday (1x daily), or Zaditor (2x daily).
WebMD recommends starting medication a few weeks before allergy season begins. Pollen seasons are fairly predictable, says Hugh H. Windom, MD, associate clinical professor of immunology at the University of South Florida. “The sooner you get on your medicine, the better,” he says.
Obviously, I’m not a doctor. You should always talk with your doctor for professional advice related to your symptoms/medical conditions.
What other tips can you recommend to manage seasonal allergies while running?