5 Ways to Keep Allergies at Bay When the Pollen Counts Soar

Friday 5There are so many great things about late spring-early summer running.  To name a few: warm, long days without the slog of summer humidity.  Secure footing after months of dodging patches of black ice and deep mounds of snow.  The start of racing season.  The blast of colorful vegetation that is springtime … and the watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing that for many of us is part and parcel of this time of year.

But don’t worry Salty readers, you don’t have to blow your PR because you were blowing your nose!  I present to you this week’s Friday Five, some tips to navigate the spring allergy season.

1) Pollen counts.  For those training data junkies among us (translation: most runners), why not add yet another variable to track in your training log and follow the pollen counts?  The National Allergy Bureau has a comprehensive website where you can monitor which pollen allergens are prevalent on any given day, and in what quantities. You can correlate your workout performance with the counts, or use the information to decide if it’s a day to keep it indoors and hit the treadmill. You can sign up for a daily email with the pollen forecast, and there is even a pollen app for your smartphone! Another tip about pollen counts: early morning and early evening are peak pollen times, so time your outdoor runs accordingly and be sure to shower and change clothes as soon as you come in.

2) Hit the beach: Sea breezes blowing inland keep pollen levels lower at the beach, so head there for your workout.  If you don’t live near one, perhaps convince yourself and/or your significant other a beach vacation is medically necessary, then take advantage of the excellent training opportunities for runners there.  Sand running is great for foot and lower-leg strengthening, particularly if done barefoot.  Running along the shoreline in waist- or chest-deep water provides a challenging but low-impact workout – just watch out for floating jellyfish and errant rocks!

Spring cleaning with a netipot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3) Nasal irrigation:  A natural way to clear things out and relieve symptoms, nasal irrigation involves rinsing out your nose and sinuses with a saltwater solution.  You can use  a netipot, or one of the other commercially available dispensers such as Neilmed Sinusrinse, and it can be done frequently, as much as four times per day.  Make sure to use sterile water (either boiled or bought), and to clean the device well between uses.  When doing it, you may gross out your family members – and yourself  – but you’ll breathe freely afterwards so it’s worth it!

4) Get medicated: There are a number of over-the-counter allergy medicines available, but unless your symptoms are really mild you will likely need a prescription medication.  The best choice is a nasal steroid spray, used every day, starting a week or two before your peak allergy period.  Don’t let the word “steroid” scare you – the steroid medicines in these sprays aren’t the performance-enhancing ones – and the doses used are tiny.  They will keep your nose from becoming overly inflamed, and many times significantly improve eye symptoms, as well.  Antihistamines like Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra can be added on as needed for further symptom-control.

5) And if all else fails………perfect the snot rocket!

Do you struggle with allergies? If so, how do you cope?

Mom of three kiddos and a black lab, running enthusiast, sports-med-doctor-in-training. I love the science and sport of running and all things related.

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  1. Good post. I never had allergy issues until the last few years. Are allergies something that come with age?

    1. Thanks Ginger. Allergies can develop at any time. A common scenario is you move to a new place, and 2-3 years later after your immune system has had time to become sensitized to the local environmental allergens, you start to have symptoms. Other people suffer as kids, go through a quiescent period in their 20s and 30s, and then their symptoms recur when they are older. Regardless, many people do develop allergies as adults…sorry you are one of them!