How to exercise during allergy season

Story highlights

  • About 8% of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies
  • There's no reason why allergies should limit your activity, experts say
  • Make a switch to allergy-friendly exercise such as swimming

It can feel impossible to do much of anything when you're sneezing and blowing your nose constantly.

And if you're one of the roughly 8% of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might find yourself struggling with those symptoms when attempting outdoor exercise in the spring (when the air begins to fill with pollen) and fall (when the ragweed comes out).

"Luckily, with the proper treatment and precautions, there's no reason why allergies should have to limit someone's activities," says Dr. Jay M. Portnoy, division director of allergy, asthma and immunology at Children's Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City.

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Here's how to make sure allergies won't hold you back this season:

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Good: Avoid your allergens

Different plants produce different allergens, but which ones are causing your symptoms? "A board-certified allergist can perform a series of tests to find out what triggers your allergies," says Dr. Michael Foggs, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

    "For example, if you know that you're allergic to ragweed or tree pollen, it's important to know how prevalent those allergens are in the area where you're trying to exercise."

    Because pollen counts vary by geographic location, visit a resource such as the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology to track the locations of the plants you're allergic to -- and avoid workouts on high-count days (or exercise indoors).

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    Better: Check the forecast

    If you want to exercise outside, it's best to do so when the pollen count is likely to be lowest.

    "Many people are allergic to ragweed, which has a pollen count that rises in the morning and peaks at noon," Portnoy says. "You would time your activity during ragweed season so that it's in the very early morning before the pollen count shoots up, or in the late evening after it's gone down."

    As a general rule, pollen counts are highest on windier, warmer days and lowest on days that are cool and damp.

    "Pollen can travel up to 400 miles by wind, but if there's dew or fog, the pollen won't be able to travel far at all," Foggs says. "The best time to exercise outdoors is right after a rainfall, because the pollen has mostly been washed away."

    To remove any pollen that might have attached to you, be sure to shower and wash your clothes (including gloves, jacket and any other gear) after your workout.

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    Best: Switch to allergy-friendly exercise

    Up to 40% of seasonal-allergy sufferers have asthma as well.

    "Allergies trigger asthma, making it much more difficult to exercise," Portnoy says. "It's recommended that people with asthma take up swimming as an aerobic activity. The reason that exercise makes asthma worse is because the airways dry out and get cold when you're breathing really fast. If you're swimming instead of running outdoors, then there's more moisture and warmth so you're less likely to have trouble breathing."

    Another option is to choose a less intense workout such as walking, yoga or weight training. Those activities are less likely to trigger heavy breathing -- and heavy inhaling of allergens.

    This article was originally published on upwave.com.