Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easy Tips to Deal With Spring Allergies and Keep on Training

It would happen like clock-work annually around the late-March/early-April time frame. Spring sweeps in with improving weather and better conditions to be outside but along with it, allergy season. In the past, I have had horrible reactions this time of year. I usually am sick for a couple of weeks with constant sinus congestion. On occasion, it may cause me to get pink eye. My junior year in college, I was so sick that I had to spend Easter weekend alone in my dorm room because of how hard allergies hit me. Needless to say, the effects of allergy season were not real conducive to getting quality workouts in for late-Spring races like the Broadstreet Run. Over the years, I've tried a number of things to help me get past this time of year in one piece and I think I have nailed down a few key things that have prevented me from getting sick the last few years and basically get through allergy season without getting sick/feeling crappy. The nice thing is that these tips are easy to implement and more cost effective than visits to the doctor, potential shots, and loading up on Over the Counter drugs. I hope these tips work for you and keep you on track with your training. Let me know if you have any secret tips for allergy season as well in the Comments.

Avoid Pollen
This falls into "Well, Duh!" category but I find that people don't really think about this one too much. Although it is tempting to open the windows and let in all the "fresh air" as soon as the weather gets nice, avoid it. Let me repeat, "KEEP THOSE DAMN WINDOWS CLOSED." The common examples/exposure points are at home and when you are driving around in your car. If you are outside for an extended period of time when pollen counts are high, keep the clothes you wore separate and wash them so you aren't bringing pollen inside your living area. Speaking of pollen count, you can use online resources like to guage what pollen counts are like and when they are at their worst. Everyone has different sensitivity to pollen so listen to your body and figure out what you can tolerate when you have to be outside for a prolonged period of time. If pollen counts are high, I would recommend doing your workouts inside but if you want to run outside, there are ways to lessen exposure. I found a great guide over at Reader's Digest of "timing" being outside to avoid high pollen counts:

"Pollen release occurs at different times of day for different plants. Ragweed starts very early, releasing pollen between sunrise and 9 a.m., although damp conditions can delay release until as late as 2 p.m. Grasses release pollen from about 7:30 a.m. onward, but if the ground is damp, the release will be delayed until the moisture is evaporated. A few species of grass wait until the afternoon, so there will be some pollen entering the air all day. If you get up at 6 a.m. for a walk or run, you can be home safely by 7:30. Alternatively, go out in the early evening, after grasses have finished releasing pollen, and before the evening “pollen shower.” Birch is an afternoon pollen: Release peaks between noon and 6 p.m. Unfortunately, there is no specific information at present about pollen-release patterns in other plants. 
In general, all types of plants favor warm, sunny days for releasing pollen, and they tend not to do it during rainy weather. Rain also washes residual pollen out of the air. On cloudy days there is a buildup of pollen in the flowers, so a massive release of pollen occurs on the next day of good weather."
As a last resort, you can always run with a simple face mask from any hardware store if you can't avoid having to run when pollen release is at its highest. Just be ready for Michael Jackson/Bird Flu jokes as you run by passer-bys.

As goofy as it looks, using a NetiPot to flush your sinuses of any pollens/allergens and any other irritants is very effective. It also keeps the sinus area moist to aid your immune system while it is dealing with allergies. It takes awhile to get used to having water basically go through your head but definitely worth the time/patience/ridicule.

Many people may know of quercetin through the FRS energy products where quercetin is the key ingredient to help increase energy/performance. Quercetin is one of the supplements I've been using for years as both a workout supplement for increased production of miochondria and also for its anti-histamine effects during allergy season. Specific to allergies, Quercetin helps two-fold, as an anti-inflammatory which prevents areas exposed to allergens from swelling (eyes, lungs, nasals, etc) and as an anti-histamine which prevents the reactions from allergens such as itchy eyes, sneezing, runny noses, etc. A pretty detailed, Biology-major explanation can be found here. The best part of Quercetin is that unlike some of the other OTC drugs, it is relatively inexpensive, does not make you drowsy, and may help give you some extra "pop" during your runs. One other note about Quercetin is that its effectiveness/ability to be absorbed by the body is increased when taken in conjunction with Bromelain. Personally, I use 500mg caps of Quercetin produced by Jarrow.

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