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Exercising outdoors with allergies

The weather’s brightening up, the days are longer and today is On Your Feet Britain Day. So you might be tempted to head outside for a run. However, for those living with hay fever, insect venom allergy and asthma, running outdoors can bring its own set of challenges. But by taking the right precautions, those with allergies can safely enjoy exercising outside.

By identifying what might be triggering your outdoor allergies – it may be pollen, pollution, mould or something else, managing your condition will be much easier if you can reduce exposure to or make informed choices about when and where you exercise.

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis)

  • Keep your hay fever medication next to your toothbrush –that way you will remember to take it daily
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses and a hat to keep pollen and other airborne allergens away from your eyes.
  • Track pollen counts and avoid going outside when these are high. The Met Office have daily and weekly pollen counts.
  • Avoid going out in early mornings and at evening, when pollen levels are highest.
  • Change your clothing and shower when you return indoors to remove pollen from your body and hair.
  • If the pollen counts are going to be high exercising indoors- a swim or gym class at your local leisure centre perhaps?
  • Hay fever can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Always take your inhaler and medication with you on your run.

Read our Factsheet on allergic rhinitis for more information.

Insect venom allergy

  • Be aware of your surroundings – avoid areas where wasp or bee may be present.
  • It is important not to panic and to stay calm when a wasp or bee comes near you. Do not make sudden movements which may increase the likelihood of a sting to the hand or arm.
  • Don’t exercise in bare feet to reduce the risk of being stung on the foot. Cover your skin with as much clothing as possible. Bright colours can attract insects so stick to dark colours.
  • Energy drinks, gels and snacks may attract bees and wasps so avoid opening/using these in areas where wasps and bees are likely to be present.

Read our Factsheet on insect venom allergy for more information. 

Poor air quality can exacerbate symptoms of asthma. 

You can track pollution levels in your area and avoid the highly-polluted areas such as main roads and consider certain times of the day when planning your running route. Run outside of rush hour if possible and keep your exercise session short.

Know your limits: Go out with a running partner if you are concerned about your safety and always have your asthma/allergy medications with you. If you are worried about your asthma, take the intensity down and go for a walk instead of a run. If the risks of exercising outside are too high, stick to running on a treadmill or another form of indoor exercise.

Consult your GP or allergy specialist if you have any specific concerns about exercising with your allergies.

If lockdown or the brighter weather has inspired you to take up running, take a look at our upcoming events to fundraise for Allergy UK. Whether you are a seasoned runner or a complete beginner, we have lots of exciting running events across the UK. 

Visit our Events & Challenges page to see all our events for 2021.

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