How to stop hay fever ruining your run this summer

The sun is finally shining and nature is looking its beautiful best – but that isn’t always good news for runners.

This time of year can prove a real problem for those who suffer with hay fever. The warmer weather and explosion in pollen cause a range of symptoms which can play havoc with your running routine.

This blog will explore what hay fever is, when the hay fever season typically occurs, and provide some practical tips and strategies on minimising its impact on your running plans.

Understanding hay fever

Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a reaction that occurs when your body’s immune system overreacts to certain allergens, such as pollen.

Common symptoms include sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, a runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes.

It can be caused by different types of pollen, including tree pollen, grass pollen, and weed pollen.

Know your hay fever season

Hay fever season varies depending on the type of pollen and your geographical location.

Generally, tree pollen is most prevalent in early spring, grass pollen in late spring and summer, and weed pollen in late summer and early autumn. So, if you know which type you’re allergic to it can help you get prepared.

Rethink your running times

Timing your runs strategically can make a significant difference in managing hay fever symptoms.

Pollen levels tend to be highest in the early morning and late afternoon when the air is calm. Consider running later in the day or in the evening when pollen counts are lower, or getting out for a lunch-time run if you can.

Running after it’s rained can also help, as the amount of pollen in the air is reduced. Plus you get to enjoy that lovely smell of rain on sun-warmed tarmac!

Minimise your exposure to pollen

Taking proactive steps to minimise your exposure to pollen can help alleviate hay fever symptoms during your runs.

These may include:

  • Checking the pollen forecast: Keeping an eye on local pollen forecasts can help you plan your runs and determine when allergen levels are high.
  • Choose your running routes wisely: Opt for urban areas or trails surrounded by water, as these are generally lower in pollen. Avoid running through fields or areas with high concentrations of flowering plants.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: Cover your nose and mouth with a lightweight mask or bandana while running to filter out pollen. Consider wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen particles too.
  • Rinse off after running: Take a shower and wash your hair as soon as you finish your run to remove any lingering pollen from your body.

Consider medication or other products

One of the cheapest and most effective tips that many runners swear by is a dab of Vaseline around your nostrils, which acts as a barrier for pollen, trapping it before it can enter your respiratory system.

For serious hay fever this may not be enough on its own, and you should consider other options.

Your local pharmacist can be a really useful source of advice on the products which may be of benefit to you, but some of the most commonly used remedies include:

  • Antihistamines: Can help reduce the sneezing, itching, and runny nose caused by hay fever. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription.
  • Nasal sprays: Steroid nasal sprays can help relieve congestion and inflammation in the nasal passages, providing long-lasting relief. You can also buy nasal sprays that contain no active steroids or antihistamines, but that simply create a barrier further inside the nose.
  • Eye drops: Eye drops formulated specifically for allergic reactions can alleviate itchy, red, and watery eyes.

See your GP if anything about your hay fever is causing you concern or you find over-the-counter remedies aren’t enough.

Don’t give up!

There’s no denying that running with hay fever is a pain.

At the time of year when getting out for a run seems most appealing, you’re struck with another hurdle to overcome.

But it needn’t put a halt to your running aspirations. With a bit of planning and the right medication, if needed, you can minimise the impact of hay fever and get back to worrying about PBs rather than pollen!