Hay fever: tips for exercising

Hay fever (also known as Allergic Rhinitis): For those who suffer from it, frustratingly, it often feels like the great compromise to enjoying Spring when it finally comes around.

We already know many of the symptoms, but did you also know that more sinisterly, hay fever affects your central nervous system and your ability to make decisions?

In this instalment of Sciencecast, we unwrap some of the body’s reactions to hay fever, as well as offering advice on how get a handle on symptoms so that you can enjoy exercise and Springtime, without hay fever holding you back.

What exactly is hay fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, which is the fine powder that comes from plants. Hay fever symptoms occur when this pollen comes into contact with the eyes, nose, throat and mouth.

Common symptoms include:
Sneezing
Coughing
Runny nose
Itchy, irritated eyes
Earache
Headache

Around 20-30% of adults suffer from hay fever each year so if any of the symptoms above are striking a chord with you, at least know you’re not alone.

Hay fever: the great enemy of exercise.

When it comes to research around hay fever, most work has gone into studying medication and prevention of high pollen counts.

What we don’t know much about yet is the impact of hay fever symptoms on nutrition and exercise performance.

What we DO know on the topic, however, is that hay fever is thought to impair cognitive function (your ability to focus and make decisions). Not only that, it’s also thought to negatively affect the central nervous system.

So, it’s not just a stuffy nose and itchy eyes after all!

With that in mind, here are a few handy hints and tips on how to combat the perils of hay fever (aside from popping anti-allergy pills):

Don’t drink alcohol the day before exercise – drinking alcohol can cause inflammation which then worsens the allergic response to pollen.

Eat to fuel your immune system – eating a poor diet can make hayfever worse by weakening the immune system, so make sure you’re getting plenty of Vitamin C and Vitamin D, as well as lots of fruits and veggies.

Block it out – rubbing a barrier, like Vaseline, across the nose and round the mouth can help reduce how much pollen makes contact with your skin.

Stick your shades on – wearing sunglasses will act as a barrier for your eyes, in the same way Vaseline would for your nose.

Exercise indoors – if the pollen count is due to be very high and your symptoms are already kicking your butt, try working out indoors instead. Oh, and avoid running near grassy woodlands at all costs!

Picking your timings – pollen levels are highest first thing in the morning and during the early evening, so try to exercise at lunchtime or after sunset if you want to get moving outdoors.

Words of wisdom:

There’s nothing like a warm day in spring to remind you to take your antihistamines!” – Unknown