Just when the weather starts to give us the best opportunities to ride, the plants decide to intervene and give us their worst. Pollens from multiple flowering plants as well as grasses will soon be filling the air, closely followed by weed pollens and lawn clippings. These high pollen counts can really hurt cyclists who suffer from allergies, as the harder you breath (i.e. when you exercise outdoors) the more exaggerated the symptoms of hay-fever become.
Hay fever symptoms include
Here are some ways to calm the symptoms and help keep your spring cycling enjoyable and rewarding.
Not all nasal sprays are the same. The best ones give you a shot of corticosteroid to reduce allergic reactions and inflammation. There are different types of corticosteroids and they will match differently person to person, (i.e. Rhinocort sprays use the ingredient budesonide). The most effective way to use nasal sprays is at night, before bed. This will help you wake up fresh and keep hay-fever symptoms at bay through the day.
Once you start to see symptoms of hay-fever it’s probably too late to take medication. You need to act early in the season to dampen your immune systems need to produce histamine. Start your medication before the pollen season to see results.
Not keen on taking medications? If you don’t like chemical medications or you are well into the season and it’s ineffective to start then a nasal barrier cream might be your answer. You can buy a hay-fever purposed barrier balm or simply use a petroleum jelly like Vaseline at the base of your nasal passage to trap the majority of pollens before they reach your system.
Wearing proactive eyewear, either with or without tint will help keep the airborne pollens out of your eyes, reducing irritability and also light sensitivity.
Plan to ride when the pollen levels are low. Some weather guides can give you a UV and pollen count to help you effectively plan your day for optimum health and wellbeing.
Different pollens spawn at different times. It is highly unlikely that you have reactions to all pollens so pay attention to your symptoms and try to determine which pollens are agitating your sensors, there are plenty of online apps for this or get a pollen test from your GP or Naturopath.
As a rule of thumb, early morning and dusk are usually the worst times for pollen counts, so where possible hay-fever avoid riding at these times or keep the intensity or duration low.
A well-rounded diet will help your body fight the pollen ‘enemy’. If your immune system is low or your nutrient levels poor then your body’s fight may take up too much energy leaving you with nothing else to get through the day.
Many people find that along with a good balance of healthy whole foods, that omega-3 fatty acids can improve allergy symptoms.
Add plenty of oily fish, walnuts and flaxseed to your diet to help give you an immune boost.
Pollen isn’t just in your lungs and up your nose, it’s also in our hair, on your skin and in your clothes.
As soon as possible after your ride take a shower so you aren’t coated in pollen grains for the rest of the day (and night).
On the same note, it’s worth drying your washing (including bed sheets) inside during peak pollen times or using an electric clothes dryer so that you are not collecting pollens on the breeze and activating your pollen symptoms before you even get out on the road.
Finally, hard as it might seem after a long and cold winter, shift your cycling indoors if you want to do more intensive training but your allergies won’t allow it.
Cycling without the sneezing? That’s freedom!
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