‘Tis the season for itchy eyes, runny noses and general irritation from seasonal allergies. Yep, spring is upon us and allergy season is here! If you are anything like me you realize that as the weather gets warmer all you want to do is get outside and enjoy the sunshine and once you get there you find yourself sneezing, coughing, itching and wishing the cold weather was back.
This year seems to be more severe for me mostly because the weather started warming up prematurely, returned to the chill that we know from the winter, then flipped right back to the premature warmth all the while staying dry to allow the pollen to just get whipped around by the wind. With the warmth and the sunshine we get the beautiful flowers that produce the pollen spores that bombard our faces, skin, nasal passages and eyes. While they look great and encourage us to get outside all I want to do is hide inside to avoid the sneezing and watery eyes that come with the pretty colors of spring. I don’t know about you, but when I am sneezing, my eyes are watery and my nose is running it makes me exhausted, cranky and lethargic. I know I need to workout and I WANT to but I’m tired and I FEEL like I don’t. If I do get up the energy to do it, I want to get outside and get some sun but the more time I spend outside the worse I feel especially when I’m done! There’s no worse catch 22!
Do I have the answer to this problem? Not really. I can tell you that in my search for information on how to combat this problem I have learned a few things that make me think there has got to be a way to enjoy the weather without being miserable.
Know when the pollen counts are at their highest. In general, between the hours of 5am and 10am the pollen counts will be at their highest and you will suffer then most.
When pollen counts are at their highest try to not engage in activities that involve a high rate of movement and raise your respiratory rate significantly. When you move faster through space and breathe harder you are more likely to inhale pollen and mold spores and have a more severe reaction.
Just because you are on a concrete tennis court, or running on the beach with no trees or flowers around, doesn’t mean you will be able to avoid pollen. Any particles that are airborne can affect you but the further you are away from the source the better chance you have of not having as severe a reaction.
Interestingly, the extra adrenaline that your body produces while exercising can dampen the allergic reaction that you have DURING exercise but will almost guarantee that your reaction post exercise will be worse and it’s important to know what you can do post exercising too.
After exercising outdoors during allergy season be sure to shower and change in to clean clothes to avoid being exposed to any more pollen that may have deposited itself on your clothes and in your hair.
Also after exercising outdoors, or when symptoms flare up, come inside, close the windows and turn on an air conditioner to clean the air around you until symptoms subside.
If your immune system is down (jet lag, exhaustion, stress, etc.) and you have seasonal allergies your body may react more severely to allergens in the air. If this is the case try to modify your exercise regime or take it inside to avoid a flare up.
Women with seasonal allergies who are menstruating may also react more severely to allergens than women who are not. In this case you may want to modify your exercise regime or take it inside for a day as well.
For those of you who take medications for your allergies don’t forget to take them! When you take your medication on a regular basis your body is fully prepared for what the wind has riding on it and if you are the type of person who only takes something when you know you will be exposed to allergens, be sure take it an hour before heading outside for your workout. Nasal steroid sprays need to be started 24 hours in advance before planned exposure.
The moral of this story? Keep your glass half full and know that there are ways to combat your seasonal allergies and spend more time outside! Know the pollen count in your area and know your own tolerance and someday we will look forward to Spring 100%...
...rather than seeing it as just something to sneeze at.