How Can I Work Out Outside Without Aggravating My Allergies?
By Esther Crain, Photography by Unsplash
A little prep work will keep you breathing easy.
The question: I would rather go outdoors than hit the gym, but I have allergies. Is there anything I can do to prevent excessive sneezing and itching post-workout?
The expert: Susan Paul, exercise physiologist and program director at the Orlando Track Shack Foundation
The answer: As long as you’ve checked in with your doctor and your allergies aren’t so severe that an outdoor sweat session can put you in serious danger, follow these pre-workout tips to keep spring allergies at bay:
First, check the pollen count in your area to get a sense of just how bad the situation is out there. If pollen levels are low, you might be in the clear. But if they’re in the medium range or higher, you’ll definitely want to postpone your workout until late afternoon or evening, when pollen counts naturally decline, says Paul. “It’s also better to run after it rains so pollen and other particles have been washed out of the air,” she says. But avoid running or cycling outdoors on windy days since allergy-symptom triggers will be blowing around everywhere during that time.
Before you lace up your sneakers, you should also take an OTC anti-allergy pill. Newer non-drowsy formulas are good choices because they won’t suck your energy or dry you out (which older generations of antihistamines tend to do). “Being drowsy and dehydrated can affect your thermal regulation, making you more susceptible to heat illness,” says Paul. She also suggests trying an intra-nasal corticosteroid to help reduce symptoms.
When you’re outside and ready to sweat, put on wraparound sunglasses, which physically block out pollen or other allergens to keep your eyes from getting itchy and watery. If it’s your nose that tends to get red and irritated, wear a bandana around your neck so you can hike it up for protection if necessary, says Paul. Once you’re back inside, shower and wash your hair as soon as you can to physically wash pollen off.
If none of these precautions make a dent in your wheezing and sniffling, visit an allergist, who can test you to pinpoint your specific allergy, prescribe more targeted meds, and also make sure you don’t have a more serious respiratory condition.
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