Allergies? Exercise Outdoors Symptom Free (cont.)

To reduce your risk of allergies after outdoor workouts, experts say always take a shower, wash your hair and put on clean clothes immediately after working out to eliminate further contact with pollen.

In addition, don't forget the power of allergy medications to make outdoor activity more pleasurable. In fact, Randolph tells WebMD that with the proper medication nearly everyone with seasonal allergies can enjoy the great outdoors without fear. For best results, however, experts say take your medications on a regular basis, so you are fully protected when you do go outside. If you normally use medication only when you know you will be exposed to an allergen, Sheerin says take it at least one hour before you plan your outdoor workout. Nasal steroid sprays should be started 24 hours before a planned exposure.

Finally, it's also important to remember that if your seasonal allergies are severe, you may have to limit your time outdoors -- to times when pollen counts are at their lowest -- or keep all your workouts indoors, particularly on days when pollen counts are high, and it's warm and windy.

If, in fact, you do want to try and spend more time outdoors, our experts offer the following additional tips for reducing allergy symptoms.

  1. If itchy, watery eyes are a problem, wear goggles, or wrap around sunglasses when exercising outdoors -- and don't forget the power of eye drops, used about an hour before you go outside. If you find your eyes itch after going to bed, or when you wake, change your pillowcase daily, and be certain to wash hair before hitting the sheets at night.
  2. For activities that involve heavy breathing (such as running or bike racing) a light paper face filter may help reduce pollen intake.
  3. Use a saline nasal spray to clear the nose of excess pollen after you finish exercising.
  4. Avoid exercising outdoors if you are run down, tired, jet lagged, or stressed, since your immune system is likely to react more swiftly and severely to an allergen. Women with seasonal allergies should avoid exercising outdoors during their menstrual cycle, since the body may be slightly more sensitive to allergens during this time.
  5. If you are beginning a fitness program, and allergies are moderate to severe, exercise indoors for several weeks to help condition your body, before moving activities outdoors.
  6. Be aware of oral allergy syndrome -- a cross reaction between what you eat and the pollen count outside. If you are allergic to birch trees for example, eating apples, cherries, peaches, plums or celery seed, before or after working out, might intensify allergy symptoms. Other possible cross-reactions include chamomile tea, melon, banana, cucumber, and sunflower seeds, which interact with ragweed and other weed pollens.
  7. After you finish exercising outdoors -- or if allergy symptoms flare -- go inside, shut windows, and if possible put on an air conditioner to clear the air. Remain inside until symptoms subside.
  8. Learn how to interpret pollen counts, and keep track of the levels in your area. Here is some important information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology:
  • If pollen counts are low only individuals extremely sensitive to pollen and mold will experience symptoms.
  • If pollen counts are moderate many individuals sensitive to these pollens and molds will experience symptoms.
  • If pollen counts are very high almost all individuals with any sensitivity at all to these pollens and molds will experience symptoms. Extremely sensitive people could have severe symptoms.

Originally published March 1, 2004.
Medically updated Feb. 24, 2005.

SOURCES: Brian Smart, MD, Asthma and Allergy Center, DuPage Medical Group, Glen Ellyn, Ill.; spokesman, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; Gillian Shepherd, MD, clinical associate professor, medicine, Weil Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, New York; author, What's In The Air. Kathleen Sheerin, MD, Atlanta Allergy and Asthma clinic, Atlanta; vice chair, Public Education committee, American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. Christopher Randolph, MD, clinical professor, medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/18/2005 5:12:26 PM