10 tips for running with allergies

Runners who suffer from seasonal allergies may benefit from these tips.
Runners who suffer from seasonal allergies may benefit from these tips.

Nothing gives you greater pleasure than running outdoors, whether it’s through leafy suburbs, a forest or your nearest park — but what if these environments are triggering your allergies and causing a post-nasal drip, itchy eyes and a dry cough?

Factors such as pollen count and the wind can really make your symptoms flare up and make you feel miserable. Here are 10 tips on how to get the most out of your runs and avoid sacrificing important training time.

1. Choose your route wisely when your allergies are bad

You might find that a certain type of tree or the grass in your local park makes you feel especially wheezy during allergy season. The reason for this is that your immune system might be triggered by a specific type of pollen. Try and change your route and scenery to avoid such triggers.

running on a gravel road

2. Protect yourself against the wind

While most articles will advise you to avoid running outside when it’s extremely windy, the wind can be difficult to avoid (especially if you live in Cape Town with its notorious South Easter). Windproof your run by investing in a buff and wearing it around your neck and mouth to limit the pollen spores you might inhale.

If your eyes tend to itch and tear up in the wind, invest in a pair of wrap-around sunglasses designed for running.

3. Take a break when you need to

When your immune system is run down or when you are feeling extremely tired, your body will be more likely to react to allergens. Listen to your body and be willing to skip the occasional run.

women feeling tired from running

4. Be flexible with your training

Monitor the pollen count and air quality. If your allergies are severe and the pollen count is high, be prepared to change the time of your run (early morning rather than the afternoon) or swap your strength training day and your run day. This may also keep your running routine from becoming stale.

5. Change immediately

It’s tempting to crash on the couch after a long run without changing out of your running gear. Don’t do this – you're depositing outside allergens inside the house. Try taking a shower immediately after your run as this will reduce the risk of pollen triggering your symptoms.

6. Cover your head

Wearing a cap, visor or buff doesn’t only limit sun exposure, but also helps to avoid pollen and dust getting trapped in your hair, according to airborne allergy expert Max Wiseberg.

7. Boost your immune system

Your immune system goes into overdrive during allergy season. Pairing this with a rigid training schedule may be a recipe for allergy symptoms. Look after your body when training for your next race – include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, limit your intake of alcohol and junk food, and get enough sleep. Not only will you be prepared for your next challenge, but you might just be able to stave off those unpleasant allergy symptoms.

healthy fruit and veg

8. Start taking your medication in advance

Your antihistamine medication needs time to start working – take it several hours before your run. Also make sure you stay alert by taking a non-drowsy version. 

9. Use your inhaler

If you tend to suffer from asthma, use your inhaler before you go for a run and keep it with you during your run, especially if you are running alone. While your asthma might be under control, allergens increase your risk of an attack.

10. Create a pollen barrier

Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the outside of your nostrils to keep some of the pollen from entering your body through your nose. 

Image credit: iStock

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