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Can Exercising Every Day Keep Your Allergy Symptoms Away?

November 13th, 2015

By Nicholas Rudy, PharmD Student Cedarville University School of Pharmacy

Recently, many magazines and online publishers have written articles indicating the benefit of exercise in the alleviation of allergy symptoms. The website Total Gym Pulse reports that the American Academy for Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) indicates warm-up exercises can improve allergy symptoms.1 According to the site, a blood-pumping workout promotes the removal the allergen from the body.1 Additionally, Total Gym Pulse along with Fitness Magazine propose that exercise relieves allergy-related congestion by reducing swelling in the nose.1, 2 While the use of warm-up exercises are approved for the control of allergy symptoms by AAAAI, there is insufficient clinical evidence to conclude that moderate to intense exercise is directly linked to allergy symptom relief.

However, the adverse effects of exercising outside with airborne, outdoor allergies are clear. A 2010 study found that those with airborne allergies (i.e. pollen) had increased levels of IgE after exercising outside.3 IgE is a type of antibody that plays a key role in allergic reactions. Accordingly, increased levels of IgE are indicative of a heightened allergic response. Yet, the study stated that further evidence is needed to form a conclusive connection between airborne allergies and exercise.3 Similarly, the International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology published a study on the differences in nasal obstruction between seasonal allergy sufferers and healthy patients after exercise. Children who had an allergy to pollen were compared to children who did not during a time outside of pollen season. No child had obstructed nasal passages at the beginning of an exercise challenge. By the end of the challenge, children with a pollen allergy had greater nasal obstruction than children without the allergy.4 But again, further evidence is required to link airborne, outdoor allergies to exercise.

But don’t be discouraged, allergy sufferers! Exercising, regardless of the benefits, does not have to be an uncomfortable burden during allergy season. In fact, there are many credible suggestions for managing your symptoms in order to achieve a great workout. So don’t let that stuffy nose, sneezing or those itchy, watery eyes get in the way of staying fit during allergy season!

First, be sure to take your allergy medication as prescribed. It is hard to focus on exercising when allergy symptoms feel unbearable. Using your medication as prescribed can relieve the nasal congestion associated with allergies that makes exercising difficult.5  Breathe through the nose as much as possible. Your nasal passages are designed to function as humidifiers and filters. They warm and moisten air while stopping allergens and other irritants.5

Be strategic about where you workout! If exercising outdoors with an airborne allergy, choose a time and location to minimize exposure to allergens. The pollen count tends to be highest in the morning and early afternoon. Avoid areas with lots of trees and fields as these areas may exacerbate your symptoms.5

Set an intensity that feels right for you. You can best determine what your body can handle. Take into account the severity of your symptoms and the activeness of your lifestyle. Start your aerobic workout off slow and gradually build intensity to avoid exhaustion.6  

Don’t forget the warm-up! Like the AAAAI, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) claims that a low-intensity warm-up may help relieve allergy symptoms. The ACSM suggests that a warm-up lets the lungs adjust to a new environment and reduces the chances of inflammation, thus making breathing easier and exercising in allergy season more bearable.6

Perhaps most importantly, talk to your doctor about your specific allergies, how they might affect your workout and what adjustments you can make.

There is no reason to fear, allergy sufferers! Your symptoms can be controlled. If you keep taking your allergy medications, working out at your own pace and minimizing your exposure to allergens, you’ll be more comfortable during your workout! Though no definitive connection between exercise and allergy relief is currently available, exercise is good for your health. There is no need to let allergy season crumble your determination to stay fit and be healthy!

References

  1. Salada L. Fighting allergies and asthma with exercise. Total Gym Pulse Web site. http://www.totalgymdirect.com/total-gym-blog/working-out-allergies/. Published March 20, 2014.
  1. Greenfield P. 5 seasonal allergy remedies. Fitness Magazine Web site. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/conditions/allergies/seasonal-allergy-remedies/. Published May, 2011.
  1. Aldred S, Love JA, Tonks LA, Stephens E, Jones DS, Blannin AK. The effect of steady state exercise on circulating human IgE and IgG in young healthy volunteers with known allergy. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2010;13(1):16-19.
  1. Harmancı K, Urhan B, Anıl H, Kocak A. Nasal and bronchial response to exercise in children with seasonal allergic rhinitis out of the pollen season. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. 2015;5(2):143-148.
  1. Sorace P. Exercising with allergies and asthma. ACSM Fit Society Page. 2014;16(2):4-5.
  1. Briner W. Action plan for allergies. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2007.

16 Responses to “Can Exercising Every Day Keep Your Allergy Symptoms Away?”

  1. Aaron J Oliver Says:

    Great blog! I knew that caffeine may be unhealthy but I did not know that it could cause osteoporosis. Is that why people say that when you drink too much caffeine, it could stunt your growth?

  2. Vineeta Rao Says:

    Interesting post! Is there a difference in how different types of workouts affect the body’s ability to remove allergens? From personal experience, I tend to wear myself quickly when I push myself too quickly during allergy season. Could part of the key be the warm-up exercises to let your lungs adjust to the environment?

  3. Myriam Says:

    I wonder if there are specific exercise routines that fitness trainers can formulate that can help people suffering with allergies during allergy season.
    Also AJ, here is a link of a study done on caffeine and growth. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/127/2/306.short

  4. Katie Distel Says:

    I really appreciated the point about paying attention to how pollen count varies throughout the day. It is information that is easily accessible yet I rarely think to check it before heading out for a run. I also rarely warm up at the beginning of exercising but, after reading this blog post, I may begin doing that during allergy seasons.

  5. Dominic Yeboah Says:

    What is warm up exercise? This is a very interesting and educative post. How often should one exercise to get the benefits from exercising in alleviating allergies?

  6. Caleb Thompson Says:

    I would not have thought that exercise can help with allergy symptoms. What information did you find on the length of allergy inhibition? Does allergy relief only occur while exercising, or for a certain length of time afterward?

  7. Hannah Chittenden Says:

    Being a soccer player for the majority of my life and also having allergies, I was really intrigued by this article. I have never really though about how exercise impacts allergies. Before reading this article I would have assumed that exercise, especially outside has only negative effects on allergies. However , after reading through the research you did and looking back on my own experience playing sports outside during allergy season, my opinion has changed. I can definitely see how warming up and exercising can clear congestion and remove some of those allergens.

  8. Brandon Spears Says:

    I have never heard of using exercise to treat allergies before. This strategy seems very reasonable, but it also makes me wonder why simple warm-up exercises seem to be more beneficial than high intensity ones? In your post, Nick, you said that one way exercise helps allergies is by increasing blood flow, which helps eliminate allergens from the body. If this is the case then it would make sense for the even greater increase in blood flow due to intense exercise would increase this benefit. Was there any mention in your research as to why this does not seem to be the case?

  9. Casey A Nelson Says:

    Nic, this was an interesting read as I enjoy working out regularly and have allergies. My allergies typically flare up during the spring while I am still in school, and this causes me to not be as regular with working out as in the summer. I would be interested to see if this would help with my own allergies if I was able to be more regular in the gym. During your research was it found whether working more with weights, or more intense cardiovascular exercise would be most beneficial to preventing allergies?

  10. Travis Mentch Says:

    I know in the past I have been told it is a good idea to stay active while you are sick, but I had not considered that this may also be true for allergies. Warming-up before intense exercise is a good idea for many other reasons, but the benefit for people with allergies is interesting. There is an app made by pollen.com that people could easily access information about the pollen count and other allergy information that may be beneficial for them to know before exercising. As you mentioned, I think it is important for people with allergies to start out slow and slowly increase intensity during a workout. Maybe alternating between indoor and outdoor exercises daily would help those who suffer from allergies.

  11. Emily Bruce Says:

    I have never realized that exercising could help with allergies. I have noticed that when I am congested, working out always loosened the mucus up and made my nose run. It sounds like this happens for the same reason. I know working out is good for us all, but it seems like it should be a non-pharmacologic idea for allergy sufferers (at least working out indoors).

  12. Morgan Says:

    Great article! I would have never linked exercise and allergies together. I can’t definitely see how exercising can help with allergies and just keeping you moving to help flush out all of the allergens and possibly improve symptoms. Do we know how severe these patients suffered with allergies? I feel like if your allergies are mild then this could be a great option, but I wonder if the this is still effective with more severe allergies?

  13. Sam Franklin Says:

    Nice work, Nic. Domenic, here’s an article about warming up, where you do gentle exercise prior to starting your regular workout. Nic, did you read anything about exercise-induced asthma? I had friends back in the day who had this problem, and I’m wondering how this would affect their allergies.

    http://0-eds.b.ebscohost.com.library.cedarville.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=fab6ab8a-d79a-47ff-b221-b5b55bcafe11@sessionmgr112&hid=103

  14. Kofi Amoah Says:

    Great job finding this article, Nick! I am a big believer of exercising daily, but I am not do sure if people with environmental allergies can get much relief from exercises. Did the study recommend where patients with allergies should exercise, and for how long? I would assume that they would have to exercise indoors to try to limit their exposure to the allergens. I do agree that more studies are needed to make an informed conclusion.

  15. Matt Madden Says:

    Great article! The more I think about it, I do feel like the more consistent I am with a workout routine, the less I notice my allergies bothering me. Growing up on a farm, I was constantly bombarded with allergens and it was miserable somedays. I definitely want to do some looking into this topic myself to see what else I could be doing that I had never thought of. Interesting topic, Nic.

  16. Insang Yang Says:

    Great article, it could be motivational for some people. There is no doubt that the exercise improve the quality of our health and mind. However, there are so many allergies, including pollen, cold weather, dust and food. Thus, if the article was more specific on the type of allergy then it could be more interesting. If some of the severe allergies like food allergies can be cured by exercise, then it will be the greater motivational article for many people.

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