(Or, what to do when allergies pick your nose.)
If “nose” news is good news, you’ll be delighted to know that this year’s allergy season is forecast to be better than usual in the Charlotte area. If you suffer from spring allergies in our Tree City, USA, this is very good news!
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America lists Charlotte at number 58 on its annual list of allergy capitals in the U.S. – much better than the Top 50 ranking it usually gets. Our northern neighbors in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, along with Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina, still rank higher than Charlotte, however. The AAFA cites warmer temperatures as a leading culprit in the length and severity of allergy seasons.
And if you’re new to Charlotte – relocating in the “great resignation,” or working remotely from our lovely landscape – welcome! You’ll notice a whole different allergy season than you’re probably used to. It can really affect your stamina on a run, too.
“Those new to town or to this part of the country may find that they have worse allergy symptoms in this area,” says Novant Health physician of sports medicine, Dr. Keith Anderson.
Our dense foliage is lovely to look at (trail run, anyone?) but is a big culprit affecting your itchy, watery eyes and nose, even if you’ve never suffered from allergies before.
“Allergies can change over time,” says Dr. Anderson. “You can develop new allergies and get rid of former allergies.” Out with the old, in with the new, eh?
In addition to grass and tree pollen, other culprits show themselves in spring – like dander from your pet shedding its winter coat, or the allergens it brings in from outside, and insect bites from being outdoors. You’re not alone – more than 50 million Americans have some type of allergy, according to Novant Health. Seasonal allergies are high on that list.
How to Keep Seasonal Allergies in Check
There are a number of things you can do to help your sniffling and sneezing this time of year. Some are habits, others are over-the-counter meds, and some require a visit to the doctor. One or a combination can possibly work for you:
- Close your windows. We know; it’s a bummer when you’d rather get free, fresh air and limit your expenditures on a/c or heat. But if you are really suffering, this is the first step.
- Change your air filter. Keep the air circulating through your home clean and fresh – especially if you have pets, and aren’t running the heat or a/c. Run your HVAC in “fan only” mode for a few hours to clear the air if you need to.
- Run indoors. Also a bummer if you love the great outdoors, but it will help on high pollen days. Try these treadmill workouts, or run a different route with fewer trees. (treadmills: https://runcharlotte.com/treadmill-or-dreadmill/ )
- If you run outdoors, shower and change as soon as you get home. That will get pollen and other allergens off your skin, hair, and clothes. Hang up those wet towels and sweaty clothes (inside out, if necessary, or in another room) so they can dry, instead of growing moldy in the bottom of a hamper until laundry day.
- Change your linens often – especially pillow cases. Vacuum and dust often – even furniture.
Also consider your timing: Run later in the morning or in the afternoon when pollen counts are lower. Run in the rain! – or right after – because rain will knock pollen out of the trees and out of the air, too. Keep track of pollen counts with apps like WeatherBug, Plume Labs, or WebMD.
Is the sun too bright during those hours? Wear a hat and glasses (and sunscreen, of course). Some coverage will keep both sun and allergens out of your eyes and off your face.
- Nose sprays. Flonase and Nasacort are two that treat nasal tissue right at your nose, but it’s important to find the one that works best for you. It may take a couple of weeks of trying to find the right one, says Dr. Dr. Puja Rajani, a Novant Health Pediatric Allergy & Immunology Specialist, so be patient and pay attention to how you feel after trying each one.
- Allergy pills. These are enough for some people, but their effect is different for some. Allegra (Fexofenadine HCl) doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier, but Claritin (Loratadine) and Zyrtec (Cetirizine) have been shown to cause drowsiness in 10-15% of patients, says Dr. Rajani.
- Immunotherapy. Skin tests can determine what allergens are specific to you; allergy shots can help your body build up a resistance to make those allergens more tolerable without pills and sprays. “There are also some oral tablet therapies available for grass and weed allergies that can be done at home,” says Dr. Rajani. She recommends seeing an allergist to take the guessing out of your allergy game.
Dr. Rajani adds an important piece of advice: Don’t try any new therapies the night before or the morning of a race! The time to experiment with what works for you is during training. On race day or before a key training run, use what has worked best on prior days.
“You should never let allergies stop you from doing things you want to do,” she adds. Enjoy your run!