Changing Your Lifestyle to Improve Allergies
Having nasal allergies doesn't mean that you can't stay healthy and active. Follow these good health principles:
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Don't smoke, and stay away from secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke can trigger nasal allergies and make allergy symptoms worse.
- Exercise regularly.
Exercising and Allergies
Exercise is important to good health. At the same time, people who have allergies often have questions like these about exercising.
Is it safe for people who have nasal allergies to exercise? Exercise is important for everyone, including people who have nasal allergies. While a regular exercise routine won't cure your nasal allergies, it can help you feel your best. Try focusing on exercises that strengthen your heart and lungs.
How much can I exercise? Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. As long as you don't have other health problems that would prohibit it, you can usually exercise as much as you like. Don't exercise when you're sick or not feeling well. Don't push yourself beyond your capabilities.
How can I exercise when my nose is stuffed up? Before exercising, you may need to take a nasal allergy medication such as an antihistamine, decongestant, nasal cromolyn, saline nasal spray, or nasal steroid spray. It's important that your nose and sinuses be as clear as possible when you exercise. As you breathe through your nose, the air is warmed and filtered. This keeps the air at the right temperature and humidity and also filters out excess allergens, irritants, and pollutants. When your nose is stuffed up, you have to breathe through your mouth, which can allow irritants into your lungs and bronchial tubes. Stay well hydrated while exercising, especially when taking allergy medication or if you're mouth breathing.
Will I have a reaction if I exercise outside since I'm allergic to outdoor allergens? Not necessarily. Where and when you exercise can make a difference. Choose a place free of large concentrations of allergens. For instance, if you're allergic to weed and grass pollens, don't exercise next to a field full of grasses and weeds. Similarly, don't exercise near a lake if you're allergic to molds. Know the peak season for your allergens. Check the daily pollen count and mold counts for your area. During peak times for your allergen, you may want to exercise indoors. Taking medications before exercising or wearing a mask during exercise can help reduce allergy symptoms if you can't avoid your allergens.
When is a good time to exercise outdoors? It's best to exercise outdoors on days that have cooler temperatures, higher humidity, and only a little wind. Pollen counts are lower in the morning. Another good exercise time is right after a gentle, steady rain. Then the air is cleaner. Avoid outdoor exercise during hot, dry, windy days when pollens, molds, and dust tend to be at their highest.
What about exercising in a city? Try not to exercise around large amounts of chemical irritants, such as factory fumes or car exhaust. These can trigger or worsen your symptoms. Try to stay away from heavy traffic or other areas that have concentrations of chemical fumes, pollutants, or odors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD
Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine
Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University
Board certified in Allergy and Immunology
Last updated June 2008