It’s that time of year when pollen counts are rising and allergy sufferers are feeling the effects. That’s especially true if you like to work up a sweat outdoors. When you breathe deeply, as people often do when they exercise, pollen may be more likely to trigger coughing fits, wheezing and asthma in some people. If you’re an outdoors exerciser, it may seem impossible to avoid allergy attacks like this when allergy season is in full swing. But there are some ways you may be able to get a good workout in without succumbing to some of allergy season’s most uncomfortable effects.
Plan around peak pollen times
You may notice that certain seasonal allergies impact you more at certain times of day. That’s not a coincidence. Pollen counts from the main allergy-causing plants — ragweed, grass and trees — tend to peak starting around midday. For example, grass pollen tends to be highest later in the afternoon into early evening, whereas ragweed pollen peaks closer to noon. So, if you’re most sensitive to grass pollen, you may want to plan your workout for earlier in the day to avoid your worst allergy symptoms.
Different plants also pollinate at different times of the year. Grass pollen tends to ramp up in mid-May through mid-July, which means you don’t necessarily have to stick to early morning workouts to avoid pollen spikes before or after that stretch of time. However, if you also have tree pollen allergies, you may want to start that early morning workout schedule as early as March, since that’s when tree pollen begins to emerge.
If you’re not sure how each plant species affects you, speak with your allergist about taking an allergy test. That way, you can feel more confident that you’re keeping your allergies under control as best you can on your new outdoor workout schedule.
Pay attention to the weather
The weather can change the intensity of pollen counts in your area. If it’s dry and windy, there’s more potential for pollen to get swept around, carried on the wind and into your nose and mouth. If there’s a rainstorm, pollen may get weighed down by moisture initially, subduing your allergies, but levels can rebound quickly if there’s wind that follows the storm. Raindrops can also break open bigger clumps of pollen, sending more of it into the air when things dry out.
So, despite how pleasant it might feel, dry, breezy weather isn’t ideal if you want to keep your allergy symptoms at bay. You’ll have a better chance of staying clear from sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes if you jog right after a rainstorm.
That said, muggy, humid weather can make it challenging to breathe comfortably while exercising regardless of how low the pollen count has fallen. This is especially true for people with moderate to severe asthma. So if you know you’re sensitive to heavier, humid air, it’s best to save exercising for when things dry up.
Be prepared with meds
If you usually exercise outside, it’s unlikely you’ll entirely avoid allergy symptoms as pollen counts rise. However, making little modifications like those mentioned above could significantly reduce how much you’re impacted by them. Regularly taking allergy meds before you venture outside can also help keep your symptoms under control. If you think you’d benefit from such a regimen, talk to your allergist about what’s best to take and when to compliment your daily routine.