Like many runners, I get excited when I start to see flowers peeking out of the ground and buds popping on tree branches because I know it means more hours of daylight and better running weather. But some runners actually dread the start of spring because they can’t get through an outdoor runs without sneezing, wheezing, runny noses, itchy eyes, and other seasonal allergy symptoms.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, don’t assume you have to be chained to the treadmill during allergy season. Follow these tips and tricks to keep your outdoor runs symptom-free:
1. Run when pollen counts are low.
Pollen concentrations are usually highest in the morning, from 5 to 10 a.m. Check your local pollen counts at sites such as pollen.com or airnow.gov and keep track of when you experience allergy symptoms, so you know what level is tolerable for you.
2. Choose the right course.
Some running routes are less pollenated than others, so be smart in your choices.
3. Use a saline spray.
Before heading out for your run, use a saline spray in your nostrils to help prevent allergy symptoms from surfacing.
4. Run after rain, but not during wind.
The rain helps wash some of the pollen away, so you’re less likely to experience symptoms. But if the conditions are windy, run indoors, since the wind spreads pollen through the air.
5. Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated during your runs is important all the time, but especially during allergy season. Maintaining good hydration also helps your body produce more allergy-blocking antibodies and regulate histamine levels – the main cause of allergy symptoms. Check your urine to make sure you’re well-hydrated. It should be a light yellow color, like lemonade.
6. Use petroleum jelly.
Thought Vaseline was just for chafing? You can put it around your nostrils and lips to help trap as much of the allergens as possible before they actually get into your system.
7. Cover your eyes.
If your eyes get itchy and watery, try wearing wraparound sunglasses during your outdoor runs.
8. Shower right away.
Some allergy sufferers experience their worst symptoms about an hour after exposure to pollen. To reduce your symptoms after your run, get out of your running clothes immediately and shower to get all the pollen off of you.
9. Flush your nasal cavities with a neti pot after your run.
Using a neti pot after a run will flush out your nasal cavities and get rid of any irritation.
10. Wash your clothes as soon as possible.
Pollen lingers on your clothes and shoes, and can then be spread around the house. Wash your running clothes soon after running and keep your running shoes outside, in the garage, or someplace else where you can avoid scattering the pollen throughout the house.
11. Talk to your doctor.
For many allergy sufferers, symptoms don’t improve without allergy medications or shots, so make an appointment to get recommendations from your MD.