Exercising with allergies or asthma presents some unique challenges. Physical activity can be more difficult, unpleasant, and in some cases, dangerous if you have one or both of these conditions. You may also have less energy when your allergies or asthma are acting up. If your allergies or asthma are properly managed and you have the right tools, you can work out without causing your body any harm.
If you are among the 20 million Americans who suffer from asthma, you should be aware of the possibility of exercise-induced asthma attacks. Exercise-induced asthma is just what it sounds like: asthma that is triggered specifically by exercise, usually vigorous activities such as running or fast biking. While it is common in people with asthma (in individuals with allergic asthma as well as in those with asthma that occurs separately), it can also strike people who do not have asthma under any other conditions.
People with asthma and parents of children with asthma may worry about exercise triggering an asthma attack, but research shows that in the long run, aerobic exercise is good for people with asthma and improves their quality of life. To exercise safely with allergies or asthma, knowledge is your best tool. First, realize that there are some activities that are better than others. Running, biking, and basketball are more likely to cause exercise-induced asthma, while less-intense forms of exercise such as swimming, baseball, and resistance training are less likely to bring it on. Yoga and tai chi are also excellent options.
To exercise safely with allergies or asthma, here are some important guidelines:
Before you make any major change in your lifestyle, whether it is taking a new supplement or starting an exercise program, talk to your health-care provider. You simply can’t be too cautious. Find out how to get the most out of your next doctor’s checkup, and come ready for your fitness routine.
Take all of your allergy and asthma medications as your doctor has prescribed them. Your doctor may tell you to take your medication shortly before you start exercising. If he or she instructs you to do this, listen.
If you have the potential for exercise-induced anaphylaxis or if you are allergic to insect stings, always exercise with a friend (never alone), wear your medical alert bracelet or necklace, and carry your EpiPen at all times.
If you are allergic to insect stings and you plan to exercise outside, avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, perfume, cologne, or scented lotion. Also avoid areas where bees like to hide, such as trash cans and flowerbeds.
If you have asthma, always carry your rescue inhaler with you when you exercise.
Check the temperature before you head outside for a run or bike ride. Avoid working out in extreme heat or cold (cold is the worst, because cold, dry air can be very irritating to your bronchial tubes; the best air to exercise in is warm and moist) or when pollen counts are high (usually in the morning and the middle of the afternoon).
If you are exercising indoors, work out on mats instead of carpeting, and keep your windows closed if pollen counts are high. Also, avoid exercising where there are fumes from recent renovations. If you’re exercising at home, make sure you’ve taken steps to allergy-proof your house to make sure you don’t experience flare-ups during your workouts.
If you are exercising outdoors, avoid fields, busy roads, and factories, to keep allergens and irritants out of your lungs.
If you have asthma, to prevent an exercise-induced attack, always do a long, 15-minute warmup before you start the main part of your exercise routine, and then cool down for another 15 minutes once you’ve finished your activity.
Never exercise when you have a cold or respiratory infection. Wait until your symptoms have subsided to resume your routine.
If you have allergies or asthma, don’t push yourself during exercise.