Athletes and Allergies: Tips for exercising during the pollen season

The new pollen season is already in full swing across South Africa as we head into spring. With more daylight available and temperatures warming up, people also tend to become more active. Taking part in any form of exercise or strenuous activity increases heart rate and speeds up breathing, allowing more air to enter the lungs. Unfortunately, this also means increased exposure to airborne allergenic pollen and fungal spores, which could bring about unpleasant symptoms like hay fever and conjunctivitis.

Luckily, there are ways to manage these symptoms when choosing to exercise outdoors. Whether you are taking part in an organised event like the Comrades Marathon that took place over the weekend, or just going for a leisurely jog or cycle with friends – the following tips could help allergy sufferers avoid serious symptoms while taking part in sports:

  1. Exercise with eye protection like sunglasses or goggles to help prevent pollen from entering the eyes.
  2. Wear a light buff over your mouth and nose to shield you from airborne pollen grains.
  3. Remember to stay hydrated. Hay fever can cause dehydration which can impact your performance.
  4. When taking over the counter or prescribed antihistamines, check with your pharmacist or doctor to make sure the medication is permissible for organised sporting events.
  5. Athletes on chronic intranasal and inhaled preventer therapies for asthma or hay fever should use these as prescribed – including on the day of a race.
  6. After you exercise, make sure to shower and change clothes as soon as possible. Pollen can stick to your clothing and skin, which can have lasting allergenic effects if not removed.