As I mentioned last week, its allergy season here in the Pacific Northwest. The time of year where all plants decide at once that it's time to reproduce and dump their genetic material in the air for everyone to enjoy. Being outdoors this time of year its tough, especially if you are participating in an aerobic activity. The pollen clings to your skin and invades your body which in turn produces a seemingly never ending quantity of goo from your nose.
Growing up in the Northeast, I truly didn't know what "hayfever" was until I moved here in '92, and I really didn't understand how bad it would be until my freshman year in college down in Eugene. Allergies were so bad that year that the campus health center ran out of allergy medication by mid May. I spent much of that spring indoors trying not to suffocate on my own snot. Good times.
Since that time I've been able to arm myself through a variety new world drugs, old world remedies, and trial and error to combat the assault on my body. So without further ado, I present to you "The Aggregate Cyclist's Guide to Being Outside During Allergy Season", or TACGBODAS for short.
- Figure out what you are allergic too.
- Some people go to allergists to do this. Personally I went by the "see what pollen was high on days I couldn't breath" method. Pollen.com is a good resource for pollen forecasts and to see how much it sucks to be where live. Ryegrass and I don't get along.
- Many allergy medications work by suppressing the histamine system in your body and take time for them to build up to peak effectiveness. Some people react different to different allergy medications. I stumbled upon Alavert a few years ago and it works very well for me. It's also over the counter and can be found in bulk at Costco. (Score!)
- A nasal spray like FloNase or Nasonex can help open up airways at night and allow you to sleep better. These are prescription drugs so talk with your doctor before allergy season starts.
- I keep a few tabs of Benadryl in my saddle pack after breaking out in hives on my legs after one ride. The little pink pills rule for shutting down a allergic reaction quickly and can be helpful if you get stung by a bee while out on a ride. Since it has a tendency to make you sleepy, I don't suggest using it as your primary allergy med.
- Pollen is sticky and will cling to your body after being outside for any period of time. If you get pollen on your hands then rub your nose or eyes, instant snot!
- Clean the allergens off your body before you go to bed. This will allow you to breath easier at night.
- Your head sits on this all night. Keep it allergen free!
- Outdoor pets are notorious pollen collectors. If Fido or Fluffy is an outdoor pet and you like the play with them, be prepared to suffer. If you don't like bathing your pet, adhere to TACGBODAS rule #1 after touching your pets. Don't let them sleep on you either.
- This is my number one weapon against sinus gunk. A co-worker suggested it a few years ago to help combat the onset sinus infections, and I use it now during allergy season as well. Some people can't get past cleaning out their sinus in the privacy of their own bathroom. Get over it. It's a lot better then having snot run down your face in public and carrying collection of used tissues with you.
- Another gem from my co-worker. The theory is that in taking bee pollen and honey, you introduce the allergens into your system at a low level and over time your system builds up a tolerance to it. The key to this is that it has to be local bee pollen or honey. Local bee's frequent the local flowers, trees, and grasses. Best bet to get this would be at your local farmers market. (They key to this is the word local.) This is one that I haven't had much luck with, but I've heard others swear by it.
- This is a good practice in general, but I listed it here for good measure. Antihistamines and especially decongestants dry you out. A runny nose dries you out. The warmer temperatures that cause the plants to release pollen dries you out. Drink water,
- They may itch now, but rubbing them will only make it worse. Flush your eyes with cool water, or put eye drops in to help reduce the irritation.
I hope a few of these nuggets of knowledge will help you during this time of year. It's entirely too nice to stay indoors.