A mild winter and early, warm spring have experts predicting this allergy season could be the worst in more than a decade. If you were hoping to sweat off your winter weight in the next month, though, you're not banished to the treadmill. Here are ways to exercise outside without turning into a slow, sniffling, sneezing mess.
Asthma, Allergies Or Out Of Shape?
If you're wheezing, coughing, or having a hard time catching your breath, you could just be out of shape -- but these symptoms also signal exercise-induced asthma. (You need to recognize the difference so you can see a doc for the right asthma medication. Click here for 7 Pains You Shouldn’t Ignore.) Which is the case?
Exercise-induced asthma can happen either during exercise or after, says Scott P. Commins, M.D., Ph.D, an allergist at the University of Virginia. Allergies make it worse.
If you have plain seasonal allergies, a plugged-up schnoz can force you to breath through your mouth. Since the oxygen isn't humidified as it's supposed to be, this can irritate your chest and make breathing feel labored.
And if you're just plain out of shape, you'll probably notice symptoms much earlier in your workout than say, someone who is fit but has exercise-induced asthma. Your issues will also go away if you stop to catch your breath -- not the case if you have asthma. (Tired of feeling winded? You can get ripped and fit in just 15 minutes a day! The Men’s Health Big Book of 15-Minute Workouts has hundreds of muscle-building, fat-burning plans to get you in the best shape of your life -- fast.)
Know The Best Time To Work Out
Pollen has been found clinging to lighthouses 30 miles out to sea, says Allen Meadows, M.D., spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. So there's no point in trying to avoid heavily wooded areas. The stuff is everywhere. Your best bet to avoid pollen: Avoid working out from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., when pollen counts are highest.
Take The Right Allergy Medication
If you find yourself taking puffs of an inhaler before every outdoor workout, you probably aren’t on the right allergy medication, says Meadows. And he should know: his asthma patients include Olympic swimmers and Ironman triathletes.
The most effective allergy treatments are prescription nasal sprays like Nasonex or Flonase. For less-effective (but more-convenient) drugstore options, try Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. Avoid Benadryl, since it can make you tired. (Check out Allergy Medications Worth Your Money.)
The fitter you are, the easier you'll breathe. Improving your cardiovascular fitness reduces the amount of oxygen you need to take in for a given level of exercise, "decreasing the stimulus for bronchoconstriction," Commins says. "In other words, the more fit you are, the less stress there is on breathing and the less likely you are to have an episode of asthma."