Power through the Pollen
Sally Perkins explains how to continue your training through the hayfever season.
Allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hayfever, affects between 10% and 30% of adults and can put even the most dedicated of athletes off their usual outdoor fitness routines. However, when correctly factored into your training plan, continuing regular exercise can help you manage your symptoms, strengthening your immune system, and encouraging strong blood flow. The trick is not to allow your hayfever to catch you unawares.
Do the background work
While hayfever cannot be cured by diet, there are steps you can take to help you manage your symptoms, so they cause the least disruption to your exercise plan possible. Upping your Vitamin C intake can help you reduce the amount of histamine in the blood, and eating natural decongestants like ginger can help reduce inflammation. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like berries, avocados, and oily fish can also help you manage your symptoms. Ensuring that you are well hydrated will increase the moisture in your nose, which will help to expel allergens quickly.
Think beyond your diet, as well. Be mindful of factors in the home that can exacerbate allergic reactions in the whole family: mould and cleaning chemicals may make symptoms worse, so it is worth removing potential triggers and using natural products where possible. Additionally, while a vaccine for hayfever is in the pipeline, it is not here yet, so if you rely on antihistamines, make sure you take one well in advance of heading out the door to allow it time to kick in. Similarly, if you also experience allergy-induced asthma, take your asthma medications as a preventative measure before leaving the house.
Time it wisely
Check the weather forecast when you are planning your week, and structure your workouts accordingly: choose days with a lower pollen count for your outdoor activities and use high-count days as rest or recovery days, or use them to supplement your training with indoor activities like swimming or strength training. The best time of day to head outside will depend on the specifics of your hayfever. Still, grass pollen - a common cause of symptoms - tends to be higher in the late afternoon and early evening, so if this is your trigger, aim to schedule your activity for the morning. However, the pollen count is likely to rise for the morning, so if you cannot get out early, double-check the pollen count online. Warm and windy days are likely to increase the pollen count, and humidity can also be a problem. On the other hand, a good downpour can clear the air, so heading out after the rain is a good option.
Kit yourself out
Many athletes equip themselves well for winter with warmer clothing and accessories but sometimes neglect to think about the brighter times of the year. Whether you are cycling, running, or using an outdoor gym, a good pair of sunglasses can reduce the amount of pollen getting to your eyes and causing itchiness or watering. A nasal ointment - or even a dab of sun cream or Vaseline - will provide the same benefit to your nose. It may also be worth wearing a face mask, particularly if you cannot avoid the high pollen count. Any way you can reduce the amount of pollen getting to your eyes, nose, or mouth will help to minimise the risk of symptoms.
While we cannot halt symptoms of hayfever completely, we can take steps to ensure it does not stop us from achieving our goals, be they races, personal bests, or improved all-around fitness. Prepare yourself for the season, and do not let that pollen get the better of you.
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About the Author
Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years' experience across many different areas. She made a move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and travelling as much as possible.