It’s hard to really read Spring around the Carolinas. It is truly a season of many smaller seasons. Sandwiched somewhere between “Third Winter” and “Actual Spring,” is the season colloquially, if not meteorologically known as, “The Pollening.” Stop us if you’ve heard this one.
While it’s hard to pin it to an exact start time, one thing’s for sure; newcomers and natives alike will recognize it immediately, when its yellow-green hallmark blankets any and everything that isn’t in constant motion. And even that stuff will get a decent dusting. Runners know it from the itchy eyes, stuffy noses, sneezing and wheezing that pollen allergies can bring on.
Like some of us, Mike Cooke says he would avoid trail running if his allergies were too bad on a given day, and run somewhere else, or on his treadmill, to stay away from the pollen. “If it’s race day and there’s no way around it,” he adds, “I’ll throw on a nasal strip and hope for the best. They can give a little extra airflow, while also looking very cool, and not at all nerdy.”
Tracy Dean says she never had allergies living in Upstate New York. “Once I moved to the Carolinas they kicked in,” she says, “and some days are worse than others, especially with the pollen.”
Yes, the very trees that will make August and September remotely bearable force us pay up front for the privilege. Blowing, drifting pollen is an annual sufferfest that all of Zevon’s lawyers, guns, and money couldn’t spare you from. But if you play it smart, you can make the best of allergy season and keep your running and training on pace.
Running Through Spring Allery Season
- Know what’s out there. It’s easy to keep track of pollen counts on your phone, with apps from The Weather Channel, My Pollen Count, Allergy Alert, and others.
- Timing is everything. If you can, run later in the morning or in the afternoon when pollen counts are usually lower.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses. The hat’s brim and your sunnies can keep allergens out of your eyes and off your face.
- Keep it indoors. These treadmill workouts to keep it fresh. Or use high pollen count days for strength training, yoga, or other indoor workouts.
- Shower and change. After outdoor runs, shower and change as soon as you can. That will get pollen and other allergens off your skin, hair, and clothes.
“You should never let allergies stop you from doing things you want to do,” says Dr. Puja Rajani, a Novant Health Pediatric Allergy & Immunology Specialist. There are ways to get relief, he adds; starting with over-the-counter treatments, to natural or holistic treatments, neti pots and nasal rinses, to prescriptions and allergy shots.
It’s also important to remember that your allergies may change over time, says Dr. Keith Anderson is a family medicine and sports medicine practitioner at Novant Health. He’s also a runner, triathlete, and medical director for the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon. What worked last year may not work as well – if at all — this season. But you don’t need to suffer. When in doubt, as your doctor to develop an allergy treatment protocol that’s right for you.