Tag Archives: decongestants

Athletics and Allergies–Ahh-ahh-CHOO! (Now, with cat pictures!)

Ah, the fall.  It’s a time of crisp air, falling leaves and lots and lots of stuff to make your nose get all stuffed up.  I’ve noticed that my seasonal allergies are saying hello.  And I’ve also noticed a number of my students coming to class with nasal voices and balled-up tissues.  So I thought I’d talk a little bit about exercise and allergies.

Most of the time, it’s safe to exercise if you have allergies.  In fact many people feel better after they exercise.  However if you have severe asthma, exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced anaphylaxis, you should definitely consult a doctor for special recommendations concerning exercise.  And everybody should see a doctor before engaging on a new and rigorous exercise program.  But for most people with allergies, exercise is simply annoying and not dangerous.

That said, there is some stuff you can do to make exercising with allergies less traumatic and more fun.  Here’s some basic ideas:

1.  Manage Your Meds: The timing of your medications can really make a difference in your exercise routine.  First and foremost, make sure  you take your meds as directed.  If you take an antihistimine or nasal decongestant make sure  you do so at least an hour before your workout so it has a chance to kick in.  Be sure to know your medications.  Some medications will have an effect on your Resting Heart Rate (RHR).  Make  sure you know if your medicines fall into this category and be aware of your heart rate as you work out.  Finally, you need your medicines to help you at two times when it comes to working out.  It needs to make your nose as open as possible while you exercise, and it needs to help you sleep at night.  If you don’t sleep well, you won’t feel like working out the next day.  Also as a side note, if you receive allergy injections, you should avoid exercise an hour or two after you receive them.  Exercise can change the absorption rate of some injections and increase the risk of side effects.

2. Know Your Allergens:  If you can, it’s really good to know what your allergies are.  It makes a difference if you are allergic to pollen or mold or dust or animal dander or pollution.  Once you know what to avoid, you can then go about avoiding it.

Bugs or Bees: Make SURE you have your Epi pen with you.  It could save your life.  And don’t forget your fully charged cell phone.  You should also be extremely careful when exercising in the woods and may find it safer to stay on well marked and paved trails.

Pollen: If you are allergic to pollen you can probably still exercise outdoors.  You may wish to avoid outdoor exercise at peak times of the day which include 5AM-10AM and dusk.  You also may wish to use a dust mask or stay inside when pollen counts are highest.  Also be especially careful on hot, dry days as this makes the pollen blow around more.  Try to exercise away from areas with high concentrations of allergens like grassy areas or fields.  On dry, windy days,  you may want to wear wraparound sunglasses to help keep irritating allergens out of  your eyes.  When things get really bad, exercise inside.

Mold: Again, if you are allergic to mold you can still exercise outside.  You may wish to avoid exercising on particularly humid days.  Try also to exercise away from areas with high concentrations of allergens like lakes or ponds.  When things get really bad, exercise inside.

Dust Mites: You may find it easier to exercise indoors.  Whenever possible, avoid exercising on or near carpets.

Pollution: Pay attention to air quality days–on red flag days you may wish to just exercise inside.  Be careful not to exercise too close to traffic, roadways, factories or airports.  Keep an eye on smog levels.

3.  Be nice to your nose: It’s important to be able to breathe out of your nose when you work out.  Your nose warms and filters the air.  Breathing through your mouth when you exercise can irritate your throat or your lungs.  If medicine alone doesn’t do the trick, you might consider using a nasal saline spray (NOT A DECONGESTANT SPRAY which can be addictive and dangerous).  Some people find relief from using a neti pot.  And even making sure you blow your nose well before you step out can help.  Oh, and don’t forget to keep a few tissues in your pockets for your time out on the road.

4. Stay hydrated: If you suffer from allergies, it is especially important to drink lots of fluids.  Many allergy medicines have a dehydrating effect, and breathing through your mouth both irritates your throat and dehydrates you.  Be sure to bring fluids along when you work out, and drink plenty of fluids before and after you exercise.

5. Clean up afterwards:  If you’ve exercised somewhere that has a lot of allergens, it’s important to do everything you can to clean up after you’re done.  Make sure to shower (and wash your hair) and change your clothes afterwards.  I love enjoying an outdoor bonfire at night, but I’ve found that I’m pretty allergic to the smoke and ash.  That means no matter how tired I feel afterwards, I change my clothes, shower and wash my hair before I go to bed.  You may even find that rinsing your nose out with a saline nasal spray or a neti pot after your workout makes you feel a whole lot better.

Precautions aside, I find that the benefits of exercising with allergies far outweigh any discomfort from additional exposure to allergens.  But like anything else, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So remember to take a few simple steps before you walk out the door!

And before you walk out the door of this blog post, it’s time to award our fifth and final free pedometer!  Kerri Danner, you’ve won!  Just send an email with your mailing address to me: jeanette at thefatchick dot com.



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Caution: Medications May Cause Problems During Exercise

In our current western culture, it seems that many–if not most of us are taking some sort of medication.  In 2007-2008, 1 out of every 5 children and 9 out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month.  You may have thought about how these medications interact with one another.  But have you thought about how your medications may interact with exercise?  Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can have a significant effect on your workout.  Here are some of the more common medications that can change the way you experience exercise.

May Cause Drowsiness: A whole host of medications from pain killers to cold medications (especially antihistamines) to blood pressure medicines can cause drowsiness. Often the medication will have a label that states this and recommends against operating heavy machinery.  These medications may affect your balance and hand/eye coordination.  So you should use care when operating treadmills, stair steppers, doing any sort of aerobics class and especially riding a bicycle.  When trying a new medicine that “can cause drowsiness” you may want to use extra care when approaching your workout.  And it’s important to keep in mind that taking two or more medications that can cause drowsiness can really increase the side effects.

Cipro: is an antibiotic used to treat respiratory, urinary and skin infections.  This drug has also been linked (in relatively rare cases) to inflammation of the tendons in athletes.  If you are on Cipro and you experience pain in your tendons or joints, you may want to tone down or even cut out exercise altogether until the infection has passed and your course of antibiotics is over.  Remember to always follow your doctor’s directions with antibiotics and take the entire course that is prescribed to you.

Pain Killers: Keep in mind that pain killers of all sorts, from aspirin to opiates can mask some of the aches and twinges that warn you that there are problems in your body.  While taking a NSAID can make an exercise session less painful, remember that pain can play an important role–letting us know when there are problems in the body.  Don’t use pain killers to ignore pain signals that should be telling you to rest or to deal with the underlying cause of joint or muscle pain before it becomes a major injury that could sideline you for months.

Stimulants: In addition to caffeine, many medications can raise your heart rate during exercise.  In particular cold medications (especially decongestants), allergy medications and diet pills can raise your resting heart rate and make your heart pump even faster during your workout.  If you are taking one of these medications, you should monitor your heart rate during your workout and take care not to exceed the recommended maximum heart rate for your age and condition.  You can find a handy maximum heart rate calculator here.  Just please keep in mind that various conditions may change your maximum recommended heart rate.  I’m not a doctor, so you may wish to check with your physician to see if any special restrictions or recommendations for maximum  heart rate may apply to you.

Dehydration: Keep in mind that many medicines are somewhat dehydrating.  It’s a good idea to drink lots of water before, during and after exercise in any case.  But you may want to pay special attention to keeping fluid levels topped up while taking medications of any kind.

For more information about specific medications, you might want to refer to this chart.  But keep in mind that neither the aforementioned chart nor this blog post are exhaustive guides to this topic.  And as a further disclaimer, I am not a doctor. Your local pharmacist can be helpful for general information.  For specific information about how medications and your condition are affected by exercise, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.

With the cautions listed above, you may be tempted to skip exercise altogether.  But please remember, that exercise is one of the best prescriptions available for good health.  With the prudent help of your medical team and a little bit of common sense, you should be able to enjoy the awesomeness of exercise for a lifetime.


The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to learn more about building a successful relationship with your doctor and creating an exercise program that’s just right for you?  Why not pick up a copy of my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that’s Fun and Feasible for Folks of all Ages, Shapes, Sizes and Abilities)?  It also makes a great gift!