When you have allergies, even short exercise bouts outdoors can be challenging. Follow these tips before heading outdoors to exercise to make your workout less itchy and sniffly.
1. Know Your Pollens
What triggers your allergies? It's important to know what you're allergic to.
There are different readings for different types of pollens. A tree pollen level above 50 is high, for example, while one to 10 is considered low. Check a web site such as that of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, which tracks pollen counts for trees, mold, weeds, and grass across the U.S.
2. Watch the Clock
The pollen count is highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again at dusk, so plan your workouts for other times of the day when pollen levels are lower.
If you go out during high-pollen times, wear a face mask designed to filter out pollens. As soon as you get home, rinse out your nose with saline to remove pollen. Some nose sprays will make it easier for you to exercise with high pollen levels. Ask your allergist.
3. Watch the Sky
Avoid outdoor exercise on dry, warm, windy days, which bring the highest pollen levels.
Many pollens cause eye problems, including a noncontagious form of "pinkeye" that others can't catch.
High humidity can cause problems, as well. If the air feels heavy, it can make breathing feel difficult. The humidity also contributes to mold growth, which can trigger symptoms in some people.
On the other hand, rain clears the air, making it a good time to go outdoors if you have allergies.
4. Pick the Right Exercise
Start-and-stop activities like tennis are more likely to trigger asthma symptoms in some people than activities that don't stop, like running.
Swimming is usually excellent for building up your lungs. Biking also is good. But chlorine from indoor pools can be irritating to some people, so use caution and leave the area if you have trouble breathing.
Running in cold weather also may trigger symptoms. Those problems usually are caused by spasms in your airways, which are not a true allergy. With proper treatment, you should be able to do any sport or activity without a problem. If not, you may need to take another look at your treatment plan.
5. Listen to Your Body
If you're taking medicine and you still feel tired after exercising outdoors or if it causes symptoms that you don't like, you may want to stay indoors.
6. Take Your Meds Before You Sneeze
Start taking allergy medications weeks before the season. Don't wait until you have symptoms. If you know you have spring allergies, take an over-the-counter medication starting around Valentine's Day and through the summer. Check with your doctor if you take a prescription.
Take medications that have worked for you in the past. Pay attention to the weather, particularly when winter weather turns warm and pollens and molds release into the air.