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How to battle allergies on the run

Fighting allergies when you're running

Spring is right around the corner, but for some of us, the milder temperatures and longer days come at a cost: allergies.

Running and allergies is nothing to sneeze over. We’ve only had spring-like weather in my neck of the woods for the past week and I’m already suffering. I’m dealing with a constant runny nose and pounding headache, and I know running outside for the past few days only made my symptoms worse.

Still, I’m not about to head for the treadmill quite yet – we spent more than enough quality time together this winter. Rather I’m looking for ways to run outside without aggravating my allergies.

  • Keep an eye on pollen counts. It helps to know what type of pollen – tree, grass, or weed – or mold ails you. I don’t need to know specific pollen counts, but I need to know when tree pollen will be high or low. The Weather Channel has a “pollencast” that gives you this information for your area. Check out the pollencast like you would any other forecast and plan your week’s runs accordingly – don’t run on “very high” days and take advantage of “moderate” and “low” days.
  • Watch the weather. While running in the wind can be a great way to get stronger, it’s not so great for allergy sufferers. Warm, windy, and dry days come with the highest pollen counts. Rain literally washes away pollen from the air, so head out for a run during or immediately following rain showers. However, wet and humid weather can aggravate mold allergies, so run in dry air instead.
  • Run at the right time of day. Typically, pollen levels tend to be highest between 5 and 10 a.m. and at dusk, so plan your run for another time of day. If you have a mold allergy, it’s best to run at the end of the day after the sun has dried everything up. 
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses. If your allergies come with itchy or watery eyes, wear wrap-around sunglasses on your run to protect your eyes.
  • Shower immediately after runs. As soon as you get in from a run, change out of your dirty clothes – and wash them promptly – and shower to get the pollen off you. Be sure to wash your hair, too, on days with high pollen counts so you don’t continue to be exposed to the allergen.
  • Consider allergy medication. There are a host of over-the-counter allergy meds available at every pharmacy. Experts say that taking medication before a run can help ease symptoms. Avoid antihistamines, like Benadryl, because they cause drowsiness and can dry you out. Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are better options for runners. However, it’s always best to talk to your doctor first before trying a new drug – even ones that are available without a prescription. 

How do you keep allergy season from sabotaging your training?

Written by Jen Matz.

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