Bet you two Piriton and a pocket-size pack of Kleenex that if you’re not a runner who suffers from hay fever, you probably wonder what all the fuss is about. But running with hay fever is more than just jogging along and sneezing occasionally – it can really start to interfere with your training schedule.
If I don’t manage my symptoms I get a very blocked nose, my eyes water and I get an itchy, irritated throat
“I’m training for this year’s London Marathon on 26 April and I suffer from hay fever,” says Rachel Moser, an account manager from London. “It kicks in around the beginning of April and stays bad for about six months.
“If I don’t manage my symptoms I get a very blocked nose, my eyes water like anything and I get an itchy, irritated throat too.
“The worst thing about it is my eyes – they get very swollen and sore, and it can really affect my running.”
How To Keep Hay Fever Under Control When Running
“The big problem for runners with hay fever is that their training involves breathing more deeply, taking in more air, and inevitably taking in more pollen and spores that will aggravate their symptoms,” says Dr. Jean Emberlin, Scientific Director at Allergy UK.
“A lot of runners breathe through their mouth as well as their nose, so they need to be very careful in managing their exposure to pollen, but there is advice they can follow that will help.”
A lunchtime run will be much easier on your symptoms
1. Talk to your pharmacist or GP to find adequate medication. Cellulose powder that you puff up your nose, such as Nasaleze, forms a gel layer right up inside your nose that stops the allergens reaching the mast cells that cause the hay fever reaction.
For runny eyes, get some eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate, such as Opticrom, which will clear the bleariness and help you focus.
2. Avoid the peak of the pollen count by timing your runs around it. The highest pollen counts are usually first thing in the morning and in late afternoon, so if you do have the luxury of choosing when you train, a lunchtime run will be much easier on your symptoms.
3. Avoid running through long flowering grass, or through woods. If you can, keep to open, short grass areas or tracks, so that you don’t stir up the pollen as you run. Sticking to urban environments is preferable too, but away from busy roads and polluted, built-up areas.
Shower straight away to wash the pollen off your skin, and always wash your hair
4. When you get back from your run, shower straight away to wash the pollen off your skin, and always wash your hair. Even if you pop to the shops between training sessions, it’s a good idea to wash your nose and eyes out when you get back inside.
5. Wraparound sunglasses are great for keeping pollen out of your eyes and for preventing exposure to bright sunshine, which will only exaggerate the symptoms suffered by already-aggravated eyes.
6. Finally, eat well. Vitamin C (as found in broccoli, kale, peppers) gives a boost to the immune system, which will stop you getting hay fever quite so badly; Vitamin A (sweet potato, spinach) is handy for keeping the lining on the inside of your nose stable; and Vitamin B5 (avocados, oily fish, chicken) is a good all-rounder for reducing allergic symptoms.