You'd think I'd learn, but every year the same thing happens to me. I check the weather one day and—joy of joys—it's warm! I peek out my window and sure enough, everyone's out in short sleeves. It's spring! And I have a run scheduled! (So do these 12 Types of Runners.) I'm so excited...
...Until about 10 minutes into being outdoors, when I feel that telltale itch in my nose. My eyes are somehow dry and streaming at the same time, my throat is irritated, and I know I'm in for days of misery. It's spring! And it's allergy season.
Don't be like me, caught unprepared for the pollen onslaught. First, ask yourself: "Has it been getting warmer? Have I spotted some budding leaves on the trees? Am I about to leave the house with my ankles—or more—exposed?"
If you answer yes to any of these questions, consider taking an oral antihistamine one to two hours before your run, or a nasal antihistamine spray 20 minutes beforehand, suggests Deborah Gentile, M.D., the director of clinical research in the Division of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh. You may want to bring a water bottle along once you're ready to head out; some antihistamines (especially older, first-generation ones) are dehydrating.
Or reach for a natural alternative to anthistamines, like 500mg of quercetin or 600 to 900mg of N-acetylcysteine, both of which help prevent allergy symptoms, says Leo Galland, M.D., author of The Allergy Solution. (Not into meds? Read up on 9 Other Ways to Prevent Allergies.)
Another way to keep pollen out of your nasal passages is to wear an allergy-proof face mask over your nose and mouth, suggests Gentile. You can find options for as low as $2 on achooallergy.com, or Galland says you can just wear a bandana over your face. If your allergies are more extreme, you may want to consider wearing sport goggles as well to keep your eyes clear. Yes, you'll look a little silly. But it's a small price to pay for your health and comfort. (P. S. We rated traditional and hyped-up immunity boosters.)
Also smart: knowing peak pollen times. "It's generally before 10 am," says Gentile. To check pollen levels before heading out, download Pollen.com's Allergy Alert app (free; itunes.com and play.google.com). Clear, windy days tend to have higher pollen counts than cooler, rainy days, Galland adds. And when possible, stay away from heavy traffic spots, since air pollution can aggravate allergies.
But take heart. Even if you find yourself sniffling when you first head out, "for some people, running itself relieves allergy symptoms within 15 minutes," says Galland. Something to look forward to.
Once you get inside, immediately toss your now-pollen-packed clothes in the hamper and hop your shower shower, being sure to wash your hair. Then use a saline spray to clear out your nasal passages, where allergens love to latch on to. The final step? Stretch, rehydrate, and refuel.