The Complete Guide to Running With Seasonal Allergies

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

If you’re suffering from seasonal allergies and like to keep on running, then you have come to the right place.

Dealing with seasonal allergies on the run is annoying.  This is especially the case during periods when allergens are the highest in number.

However, seasonal allergies shouldn’t spell the end of your running routine. You can take many measures right now to help you run outdoor while keeping symptoms at bay.

In this article, I’ll share with you a few useful tips and strategies for running when you’ve seasonal allergies so you can get the most out of your training.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

The Symptoms Of Seasonal Allergies

Coming down with seasonal allergies is similar to having a cold.  You might have trouble focusing, be tired, or breathing.

Most medical experts would recommend against running when you’re sick but should stop exercising when you have allergies.

Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Periodic nasal stuffiness
  • Headaches
  • sneezing

Is it Safe to Run with Seasonal Allergies?

The short answer is yes. As long as you’re not putting your health at risk, running is relatively safe for your seasonal allergies.

In fact, your training routine can even help with your seasonal allergies.

Running and other forms of exercise increase blood flow throughout your body. An increase in circulation means allergen are moved through your bloodstream more efficiently and quickly. This, in turn, should help reduce the risk of inflammation and irritation.

The rule, though, is to ensure that you’re properly managing your allergies before you get your sweat on.

For example, running while your asthma is acting up could make things worse.

What’s more?

Scale back or stop training altogether if your allergies aren’t reacting to medicine to avoid making your condition worse

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m not implying that you shouldn’t run outdoor when you have allergies, but you may need to take a few measures in order to stay safe.

Implement the following strategies to help soothe your symptoms so you can enjoy outdoor running throughout the year and with the rest of the world.

Know your Triggers

The best way to manage your seasonal allergies is to understand your triggers before heading out for a run. This way, you can plan your outdoor training when levels of allergens are at their lowest.

To build your trigger checklist, consult with your doctor about testing, then alter your training plan accordingly.

What’s more?

Pay attention to your body and how it reactions both during and after your runs.

  • Is it mold, pollution, or pollen that gets under your skin?
  • Do you have any specific sites that are more prone to flare-ups than others?

For example, if you’re sensitive to tree pollen, run outdoor during the early morning.

To do it right, keep an “allergy log” in which keep track of local danger levels using free websites like and Polen.Com. As you keep track of your flare-ups over time, you’ll start to notice a pattern forming and use the right preventative measures.

Additional Resource – Running in polluted areas

Know your Pollen Counts

How much pollen is in the air varies depending on the day and type of pollen.

According to the American College of Allergy, grass and tree pollens tend to be higher during the spring and summer months in the evening.

On the other hand, Ragweed is often highest in the morning, especially in the late summer and early fall.

Check a reliable weather service to keep track of pollen counts for mold, trees, grass, weeds, according to the region where you live. Then, schedule your runs when these pollens are at their lowest points.

What’s more?

Some people may start noticing symptoms even if pollen counts are as low as 20 grains per cubic meter, whereas others can tolerate higher amounts.

The best way to figure out your levels is to pay attention to the pollen counts and monitor when you start to notice symptoms. This will provide you with a better idea of when it’s possible to run outdoor problem-free and when you should move your training indoors.

Additional Resource – Your Guide To Running Heart Rate Zones

Check The Weather

Weather also influences how much pollen is in the air.

Running following a light rain can be a fantastic idea as rain can help wash pollen away. In fact, you stand less risk of experiencing allergy symptoms after a big rain.

Not only that, but post-rain humidity may keep pollen numbers low for a few days.

But outdoor exercise after a heavy downpour or prolonged rain may force the pollen spores to rupture.  This, in turn, breaks them into tiny pieces that can find their way into your lungs.

Pollen counts are typically the highest during dry, windy days, so avoid outdoor exercise on those days if possible.

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Take Your Meds

OTC allergy meds can help if you take them regularly, so consult with your doctor to figure out what kind of medication plan will work for your allergies.

In most cases, the best time to take allergy medications is prophylactically, as in before you head out the door for a run. This way, you’re being proactive about your symptoms.

What’s more?

If you’re dealing with allergic asthma, use your inhaler roughly 15 minutes before running and then begin running slowly.

Want to try an antihistamine? Then try taking it two to three hours before you go outside.

Just keep in mind that if you’re a competitive runner, some go-to drugs, such as Sudafed, contain pseudoephedrine, which is a banned substance in competition.

Most experts also recommend starting medication a few weeks before allergy season begins. The sooner you medicate, the better.

To err on the side of caution, check the World Anti-Doping Agency banned drug substances list before you pop any pill.

Additional resource – How to run with asthma?

Use The Right Gear

Another measure to help you limit your exposure to pollen when you’re outside is to use the right gear.

If itchy, dry eyes are an issue, get a pair of wraparound sunglasses to keep the pollen out of your eyes. When choosing new sports sunglasses, make sure they fit properly and do not cause discomfort. Also, give your preference to quality. The right shades should provide full protection from harmful UV rays since too much exposure to UV light raises your risk of eye diseases.

Wearing a hat with a brim also helps. Not only does this protect your eyes but your hair as well as it attracts airborne particles.

Have breathing issues? Try covering your mouth and nose with a bandana or face mask. This should help limit the amount of pollen that gets into your nose and lungs.

Remember to opt for a cotton mask with no more than two layers for easy breathing.

Here’s the full guide to winter running gear.

Clean Up right Away

It’s possible to exercise outdoor without coming down with any symptoms, only to begin to experience the effects once you get back home.

For this reason, what you do following a run matters, and it matters a lot.

To lower your risk of a flare-up post-run, take a shower and get into clean clothes immediately after returning home.

Can’t shower right away? Then at least bring an extra set of clothes with you, so you can change into right away. This should prevent you from breathing in more of the pollen sitting on your running clothes.

Additional resource – How to choose running gloves

Adjust your Training Intensity

If your seasonal allergies are interfering with how fast or far you can run, make sure to make the right adjustment. Your training routine should fit your life—not the other way around.

One suggestion is to devote the wintertime—a period of severe seasonal allergies—for base building training.

During this period, focus on easy miles and performing workouts by feel, as your heart rate tends to be lower during easy, aerobic training.

Hard runs force you to breathe harder, so it’s a good idea to skip on them if you’re already having trouble breathing due to your allergies.

That’s why if your seasonal allergies are acting up, you should consider skipping interval workouts or any other hand runs.

What’s more?

Intense training may increase inflammation and blood flow, which might aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms.

Consult an Allergist

If all measures fail, I’d recommend consulting an allergy specialist who should be able to identify exactly what your allergy is.

In most cases, the allergies might recommend testing to find what you’re allergic to—grass pollen? Tree pollen? What?

This is especially the case if your seasonal allergies are severe enough that they’re affecting the rest of your life—not just your running program.

There are two main ways to assess for allergies:

  • Through a skin test in which you’re picked with samples of likely allergies on your arm or back or
  • Through a blood test that checks the level of antibodies when exposed to a potential trigger.

You can help prevent a lot of trouble by simply knowing more about what conditions the take trigger your symptoms.

Most doctors would recommend allergen immunotherapy, which is a procedure in which you’ll get a tiny amount of the allergen injected into your bloodstream to force your body to adapt and build up an immunity.

Just keep in mind that the procedure can be time-consuming and expensive.

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