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Can I exercise with hay fever?

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Perhaps you’re starting a new fitness routine or never miss and love your daily run, but when hay fever hits, what do you do? To make the most of sunny days and warmer weather, we’ve put together our top tips on exercising with hay fever.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen grains, the symptoms might be watery eyes, a stuffy nose, persistent sneezing or coughing. The pollen count is higher throughout the spring and summer months and hay fever can affect 1 in 5 people.

Identify your triggers

With the right preparation you can still enjoy exercising outside and by cross referencing your triggers with a pollen broadcast, you will be able to pick and choose the right place and time to exercise outdoors. For example, trees pollinate from January to May, grass pollen kicks in around early summer and weed pollen in late summer. Within these seasons, different pollens will also be more allergenic at different times, for example May sees oak pollen at its strongest*.

Common trees with allergenic pollen can include alder, ash, beech, birch, elm, oak, pine, poplar and chestnut. Out of these Birch is the one of the strongest. If tree pollen is a trigger for you try to alter your running route if it takes in birch-tree lined avenues or woodland areas.

Grass pollen is around during the summer months in both lawns and ornamental grasses. If you’re using your garden or the park to do HIIT or perhaps you favour yoga on the grass, mow your lawn regularly or pick a patch that has been recently cut which prevents the flowers from forming*. 

Plan your exercise schedule

Pollen levels are at their highest at the beginning of the day when they rise with warming air and at the end of the day when it’s cooling down. A spell of dry, warm weather will increase the pollen count, as well as windy days. On the other hand, rain washes pollen from the air* so a wetter, cooler day should have a lower pollen count.  If the forecast is looking to be dry and sunny, try avoiding the early and latter parts of the day by scheduling your run or exercise into your lunch break.

You can track the pollen count on the Met Office, daily and weekly.

Sports kit tips

Wear a pair of wrap-around sunglasses and a hat with a peak to keep airborne pollen or other allergens away from your eyes as you run or exercise. Hopefully you will have worked up a sweat so make sure to wash your clothing and have a shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair. If the pollen count is particularly high in your local area avoid hanging your kit out on the washing line to dry.

Be prepared

If you regularly get hay fever and usually take antihistamines, start taking them up to 4 weeks before you usually get symptoms. Taking them early means that by the time the pollen starts to be released the medication has built up in your blood stream and you’ll be less likely to react.  If you use a steroid nasal spray it can take up to 2 weeks to start working so also start using this 2 weeks before your pollen trigger. If you have asthma and hay fever can trigger your asthma, ensure to take your reliever inhaler with you every day but particularly when exercising. Your reliever inhaler will relax the muscles in your airways and ease your symptoms on the spot.

Try the new, natural Fusion Allergy range. Treat irritated eyes with the allergy eye spray. Etcoin the natural ingredient will flush allergens from the eye while protecting it. The nasal spray will provide instant relief from an itchy and runny nose as well as sneezing and nasal congestion. Place the Fusion Allergy cooling mask inside your freezer for an hour while you run or exercise outside and it’ll be ready to soothe itchy, red, puffy or inflamed eyes. Always read the label and ask your pharmacist for advice and to check your suitability.

Talk to your pharmacist or GP

Visit your local LloydsPharmacy to discuss with the pharmacist all the different over-the-counter hay fever options that are available and which are most suitable for you and your activities.


*Allergy UK: Pollen and moulds in the garden fact sheet