If you’re the outdoorsy athletic type, it’s the perfect time of year to head outside for some fresh air and exercise. But if you’re also the allergic type, there’s no worse season to do it.
Pollens, dust mites, moulds, animal dander, grasses, and ragweeds are among other substances ready and waiting to take your breath away this season, but that doesn’t mean you should confine yourself to staying indoors. There are various ways you can enjoy the great outdoors and keep your allergic reactions to a minimum, experts say, and some of them are fairly simple.
“The message from allergists is don’t suffer. Don’t tough it out,” says Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist at McMaster University in Hamilton. “Allergy season is very long and it affects work, school and play. There’s enough data now that says it can be a great interference.”
Dr. Mark Greenwald of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology says aside from treating your allergies with immunizing shots, dedicated exercisers can work out later in the day when cooling air currents drop and the pollens they carry are at their lowest counts.
Waserman says this may not be so ideal for today’s high-powered nine-to-fiver, however.
“It’s the classic advice we (allergists) give people, and we realize how impractical this is,” says Wasserman. “We don’t want people to have to go to these dramatic measures in order for people to work out effectively. We’d like them to see their doctors and medicate.”
You can also reduce your reactions based on your surroundings, and the activities you do. Beaches and concrete areas are better suited than forests or anywhere else with heavy vegetation, Waserman says.
More “allergy-friendly” exercises include swimming and yoga, experts advise, while jogging is among the worst. Because of quicker breathing, runners will intake pollens at a faster rate, says Greenwald, adding you should intake air through the nose.
“Mouth breathing gives allergens a more direct route to the lungs,” Greenwald says. “The function of the nose, other than humidifying and warming the air, is a filter. If you eliminate the filter, a blocked nose for example, you’re going to switch to mouth breathing earlier. We can get our lungs to react with spasms and inflammation.”
But the best advice, allergists say, is to recognize and deal with the problem that causes reactions.
“Run a very sharp knife across the palm of your hand,” says Greenwald. “How long did it take for the damage to occur? Not long. How long will it take you to get better? A lot longer. Same idea with allergies. The spasm is short, but it’s the stuff going on inside you that’s causing you to feel what you feel and it should be treated.”