Allergies And Exercise – Brief Article
Gerald L. Klein
By taking a few precautions and with a little extra planning, asthma and allergy sufferers can reap the cardiovascular benefits of exercise in any season.
Exercise is important for everyone, including those who have asthma or other allergic disorders. Although exercise will not cure or necessarily improve an allergic condition, it can help patients to feel their best, both physically and psychologically.
Allergy and asthma sufferers may exercise as much as they want as long as they don’t push themselves beyond their capabilities. They should never exercise when feeling ill and should consult a physician before starting an exercise regimen. An exercise program should begin carefully. The following suggestions and precautions will help.
Clear Nose and Sinuses
The nose and sinus passages (upper airway) should be as clear as possible so that nasal breathing can take place. The nasal passages are a natural filtering and humidifying system that helps keep the air at proper temperature and humidity while filtering out pollutants, irritants, and allergens.
Breathing through the mouth during exercise bypasses this filtering and humidifying system and may introduce irritants to the bronchial tubes and lungs, making exercise less effective.
Antihistamines, decongestants, nasal cromolyn sodium, or a nasal steroid spray can help keep the airways open during physical activity. Many of these are prescription medications, so check with your doctor. Some patients may need to use medication for their bronchial tubes when exercise causes symptoms such as chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath, which is common in patients with asthma, chronic bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In addition to these immediate symptoms, exercise has recently been shown to cause delayed reactions some 6 to 12 hours after the exercise has been performed. Common delayed symptoms include chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath.
Patients often can prevent delayed symptoms by taking medication such as a cromolyn sodium or an albuterol inhalant five to ten minutes before exercise.
Theophylline or other bronchodilator tablets also sometimes are recommended before exercising. The type of medication to be used depends upon the frequency and duration of physical activity and the practicality of taking the medication prior to exercise. Consult your physician on the best medication for you.
Choose a Place to Exercise
The choice and the location of your exercise program are very important. If you have allergies, obviously you should not work out vigorously near fields of grasses and weeds. At certain times of the year (during high-pollen seasons in spring and fall), it may be more appropriate to exercise indoors. Try to confine outdoor exercising to areas with lesser concentrations of allergens (pollens, dust, and molds). If you can’t avoid them, take preventive measures such as premedication or wearing a mask.
Avoid working out where there are large concentrations of chemical irritants. Stay away from heavy traffic areas where there is exhaust from vehicles or from factories that emit pollutants. Also avoid indoor areas where there are noxious or irritating odors.
Avoiding Bronchial Spasm
Some forms of exercise may be better than others. Continuous running most commonly causes bronchial constriction and spasm in those with respiratory problems. Swimming, on the other hand, poses the least respiratory irritation. Exercise with stop-and-go activity tends to cause less bronchial constriction than exercise using continuous motion.
Weather conditions also should be considered when exercising. Cold and dry or very dry weather can be irritating to the bronchial tubes. If you have a bee-sting allergy, avoid wearing bright-colored clothing, strong perfumes, or lotions that may attract stinging insects and increase your risk of being stung. Stay away from flower beds, flowering fields, bodies of water, and areas near garbage where stinging insects tend to habitate.
Carry Injectable Epinephrine
Those who have severe allergies to stinging insects such as bees, wasps, or yellow jackets should take special precautions. During outdoor exercise, keep injectable epinephrine on hand. Another person should be near to assist in an emergency.
Severe allergy sufferers who develop hives, swelling, or anaphylaxis should take the most care when exercising. An anaphylactic reaction can be life-threatening. Such patients must carry injectable epinephrine with them, should never exercise alone, and should not exercise or jog in remote areas far from medical help. These individuals may also need to take antihistamines or other medication before they exercise.
These suggestions and precautions are not meant to discourage exercise, but to help in choosing suitable activities. Remember, patients with bronchial asthma have even participated (and won medals) in the Olympics.
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