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Stay Active Despite Allergies, Your Spring Outdoor Workout Checklist

pollen, spring allergies, summer allergies, exercise, fitness

The mild winter that we had this year has produced an earlier blooming season for America’s plants and trees. Experts have predicted this spring to be the worst allergy season of the decade. Perhaps you have had plans to exercise outdoors in the nicer weather but fear that you can’t because of aggravating allergy symptoms. No worries! We have your outdoor workout allergy checklist here.

About 35 million Americans suffer from allergy symptoms, reports the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. This year’s pollen count, one of the most common allergy triggers notes current president Dr. Stanley Fineman, has increased to double digits much earlier this year than last, with some reaching as high as 250 (tree pollen levels above 50 is high).

Today’s 4-Day Allergy forecast for much of the Southeast by Pollen.com, for example, is in the “red” zone, meaning pollen levels are excessively high. Pollens from weeds and grasses may start in the spring, but they can last all summer long.

Don’t let this unfortunately weather phenomenon be an excuse to ditch the outdoor workout plans. If you can, exercise early morning or late in the evening, as most pollens peak between 10am and 4pm. Also, remember that rainy days are low-pollen days, so instead of skipping your walk or run due to rain, dress appropriately and hit the trail.

But on days that are dry, warm and windy, it is probably best to move your workout indoors as the wind blows pollen around for miles, causing allergic conjunctivitis, a non-contagious form of pink eye. Swimming and biking are excellent cross-training exercises to build up lung capacity.

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However, do realize that during the pollen season, the count is never zero, no matter what time of day, so take your allergy medications even before you have symptoms. Take those that have worked for you in the past, but if you still have trouble, see your allergist for a recommendation. Dr. Murray Grossan MD, an ENT and author of Free Yourself from Sinus and Allergy Problems –Permanently, suggests asking about one of two anti-allergy nasal sprays that enable you to exercise even with high pollen levels. These are Astelin and Pantanase.

If you do want to brave the pollinated air, you might consider wearing a face mask designed to filter out pollens. Wear natural fabrics like cotton which doesn’t build up static, so pollen is less likely to stick to it than other fabrics. Sunglasses can help keep pollen out of the eyes.

Also, choose your workout program with this thought in mind - Start-and-stop activities such as tennis are more likely to trigger asthma symptoms in susceptible people than continuous activities like running, says Marjorie L. Slankard, MD, clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. But also keep in mind that intensity of exercise causes faster breathing, so the more allergens you inhale. You may want to choose a less intense workout during particularly high pollen count days.

Remember that running and running on the beach is a wonderful exercise, but the shore is not always pollen-free. Grass in the sand dunes do have pollen, and the wind can carry ragweed pollen up to 400 miles out into the sea!

Once you get home, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible. Try using a neti pot before and after exercising to get rid of dust, pollen, and mucus from your nose. And when driving to and from your workout destination, leave the windows up, turn on the air-conditioning, and put your vent on “recirculate” to prevent the pollen from entering windows, sunroofs and vents.

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