Winter is behind us and we are in the middle of spring, which is characterized by sunshine, mild temperatures, long bright days, fresh air and wonderful views. Definitely, a great time to go running or cycling.
However, spring is not only associated with warm temperatures and flowers. Spring usually brings with it a slightly less popular guest: pollen! The pollen concentration is much higher from about mid-April to mid-June than during the rest of the year. Many people suffer from pollen allergy and as a result have difficulty exercising.
What exactly is pollen allergy?
Pollen allergy can occur at any age, but usually begins in childhood or adolescence. In many cases, the symptoms subside with age. For some lucky people, the allergy disappears completely, but for many others, it remains for life! This varies from person to person in every way. Allergies are primarily hereditary, in particular the “predisposition” is inherited.
The biggest problems are caused by grasses and weeds. In addition, the unpopular symptoms can also be caused by trees such as alder, hazelnut, cypress or birch. The pollen itself is not a harmful substance for our body. However, the body’s reaction is as if it were attacked by viruses or bacteria that are hypothetically harmful to our body.
An allergy is basically a disease of the immune system caused by exaggerated reactions of specific antibodies to normally harmless substances, such as pollen. So, when we talk about allergies, we mean an inflammatory reaction to allergens, which can come in two types: local (affect only a part of the body, e.g. the nose, eyes, skin, …); systemic, also called anaphylaxis (it affects the whole body and can cause skin reactions, bronchial constriction, throat swelling and even anaphylactic shock).
Specificity and speed are two general characteristics of allergic reactions. Specificity, because the allergy is only manifested to a particular substance, and speed, because it takes an average of 15 minutes from contact with the substance to the onset of symptoms.
The most common symptoms:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion).
- Runny nose (rhinorrhea)
- Rhinitis (inflammation of the nose)
- Itchy and watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- Feeling of exhaustion
- Shortness of breath
- Itchy palate
- Dry cough, often at night
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Forms of dermatitis affecting the skin (one of the most severe forms)
In short, running or cycling in spring can be more of a pain than a pleasure for many people! However, foregoing exercise for this reason is counterproductive because exercise helps strengthen the immune system. For asthmatics in particular, exercise is essential because it strengthens lung function and thus physical endurance. Studies also show that outdoor exercise is healthy because we can stimulate our immune system by breathing in the essential oils released by trees. So it’s not that jogging or cycling has to be abandoned. We have listed below nine tips that can help you during the pollen season.
- If you suffer from a pollen allergy, you should first consider with your doctor the possibility of immunotherapy against the allergy and establish a regimen for future prevention. In this way, it will be possible to understand what is causing the allergic reaction. If necessary, ways of prevention will already open up afterwards.
- After training, a thorough shower is essential! Shower directly after training and put the training clothes in the laundry. Pollen often sticks to the clothes.
- Rain has a cleansing effect: do your training when it is raining, because the water partly flushes the pollen out of the air. Also, avoid windy conditions. As for the time of day, in the city it is best to run in the morning (between 6:00 and 8:00 a.m.), since that is when pollen concentrations are lowest. In the countryside, it is recommended to run in the evening after 7:00 pm instead.
- While running, it is better to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth, as the nose films the air as you breathe it in. If you have itchy eyes, glasses with side shields can help.
- An ingenious solution is to use the Internet to find out the amount of pollen circulating in a particular area, so that the risk can be reduced and predicted. With this information, the training route can be created according to the allergy: If you are allergic to tree pollen, avoid the forest and vice versa if grasses are the problem. If you are allergic to pollen in general, it is recommended to train in a coniferous forest, because there the pollen concentration is lower, but the concentration of stimulating essential oils is stronger. All of this information can be found on the Allergy Center website or via the free “Pollen News” app.
- Avoid walking near industrial areas. Concentrations of ozone and toxic substances are often high there, making pollen even more effective and annoying.
- Exercising by the sea, provided you have the opportunity, is a good choice because the wind usually blows from pollen-free waters during the day. The mountains are also a recommended destination: from an altitude of 800 meters the pollen concentration decreases, while above 1200 meters there are hardly any traces left.
- It is advisable to limit yourself to light endurance sports. Training at the limit can weaken the immune system in the short term and makes it easier for pollen to enter the lungs. Do not overexert yourself and take breaks if necessary.
- Finally, there are a number of foods that are natural antihistamines: Vitamin C, flavonoids, omega 3, green tea, herbs and spices. Another important element should not be forgotten: water! It is important to drink before running, because water helps cleanse the mucous membranes and makes them less dry.