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Allergies and Exercise: 5 Tips for Avoiding an Allergy Attack When Exercising


Are you the person who cringes when the pollen alert pops up on your phone, or do you muddle through the day with tissue up your nose or in your pockets? If so, it’s not the flu; you are a bonafide allergy sufferer. Staying fit through allergy season can be tricky because it looks and feels nice outside, but airborne pathogens are waiting to trigger an attack. Stop suffering through your workout. This 5-step process will help you tackle your allergies and avoid an attack while you work out.

Seasonal Allergies vs Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis

First, before we tackle allergies and exercising, I want to clear up what type of allergy to which I refer. Have you heard people say they are “allergic to exercise”? It is a real thing, but it is rare. The term is exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Exercise-induced anaphylaxis is a disorder in which patients suffer severe allergic reactions to exercise or immediately following an exercise. Patients may experience hives, dry mouth and throat, swollen throat, decreased blood pressure, wheezing, nausea, flushing, abdominal cramping, and more. Anaphylaxis develops quickly and can peak within 5 to 30 minutes.

For the purpose of this post, I will discuss seasonal allergies and exercise. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you can experience reactionary symptoms when exposed to outdoor allergens. Common outdoor allergens include: pollen, mold, and dander.

Symptoms of seasonal allergy attacks are not as severe as exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Seasonal allergy symptoms include:

  • Hoarse voice and/or sore throat
  • Itchy throat
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry cough

5 Tips for Avoiding an Allergy Attack When Exercising

You need a plan of attack to help you avoid an allergy attack prior to your workout and after you finish. Keep these 5 things in mind when trying to avoid a seasonal allergy attack: check it, avoid it, protect it, wash it, relieve it.

1. Check It

Before you head out for a jog, hike, walk, or any other outdoor activity, check the pollen levels. You can download an app on your phone, watch the weather report on the television, or you can visit for pollen information. The website tells you what the previous, current, and future allergy reports are, as well as what the top allergies are for that day.

2. Avoid it

There are a few strategies to help you avoid an allergy attack. If you know what type of allergy you have and what the trigger(s) is, do not go where that allergen(s) is present. It is best to avoid grassy areas, areas with many weeds, woodsy areas, and ranch or farmland areas. Instead, choose a park, workout indoors, go for a swim at the beach, ride your bike on a bike path, or choose low-impact exercises that do not prompt faster breathing. The harder you breathe, the more you inhale allergens.

Another way to avoid allergy triggers is to be strategic when you head outside to exercise. Your morning jog or bike ride may be more enjoyable in the morning when pollen levels are low; although, not all immunologists agree that the time of day matters because the count is never zero. You can also go outside and workout when it is sprinkling or right after a rain. The rain will wash away some of the pollen in the air and on surfaces.

3. Protect it

Protect yourself when you go outside for a workout. Many allergy sufferers cover their mouths and noses with a bandana or face mask when they work out outside. If you suffer from itchy and watery eyes, make sure you wear sunglasses that hug your face, or opt for a pair of goggles to keep allergens out of your eyes.

4. Wash it

Never wear the same outfit twice. Always wash your clothes, shoes, and gear right after you return home from your workout to wash to pollen off of the surfaces. Your hair and body will also be covered in pollen after your workout, so make sure you jump into the shower right away. When you get home, strip off your clothes and walk them directly to the wash. Don’t leave them lying around so your clothes do not trigger allergy attacks for anyone else in your home who suffers as well.

5. Relieve it

Talk to your doctor about ways to relieve seasonal allergies. Your physician may prescribe an allergy medication or nasal sprays to help you combat irritants. Additional methods people use to relieve allergies include: Neti pot flush, Butterbur extract, saline nasal spray, and changing eating habits during pollen season. Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergy doctor at New York University recommends staying away from melon, sunflower seeds, bananas, chamomile, and Echinacea products if you suffer from weed allergies, such as ragweed.  

Don’t let allergies stop your workout. Attack allergies before they attack you. Go enjoy the outdoors again.