Allergies can interfere with staying active in the summer. And just when you thought you got used to summer allergies, the seasons are about to change again with fall approaching! Going indoors where there is filtered air conditioning is one way to get around this conundrum, but doesn’t solve the problem. Especially if someone is sensitive to indoor allergens like dust or mold. Changing the environment is a short-term fix, just like allergy medicine. What if there was a way to play outside (or inside) AND breathe easy without getting drugged up? For some people there is.
Allergies happen when your immune system attacks a false invader. For example, pollen, fresh cut grass and dust are generally non-threatening to your body. Yet, symptoms like a runny nose arise to escort the supposed invaders out. There are other allergens that hide behind the scenes too, making allergies a year round concern.
Three Types of Allergens
Environmental – Outdoor air pollution (plants), indoor air pollution (dust, mold, chemicals), poison ivy and insects. The chemicals found in sunscreen and other products used on the body can be irritating whether harmful or not.
Food – Dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, sugar and night shades are all examples. Sometimes they irritate the body causing gas, bloating or sneezing. Other times they can be a food intolerance and pose larger problems that affect gut health and digestion.
Stress – Work, relationships and fearful thoughts can place the body into attack mode when they pose a threat to the system. Stress can cause muscles to tighten, breathing to become restricted and effect normal bodily function. Almost all systems (digestive, nervous, endocrine, etc.) are effected by stress. When the body is trying to manage this and then summer environmental allergens get introduced – KA POW!
Exercise is a form of stress too. It’s results are usually positive, but can be the opposite when it’s done improperly. The goal of exercise is to break down muscles to make them stronger and to push the cardiovascular system so it’s more effective. While it yields great benefits to most people, physical activity is yet another type of input that the body has to manage.
Your body: the chemistry lab
Think of your body like a chemistry beaker. You pour some of this allergen in and some of that one. There is inflammation as a result. Sometimes it’s obvious on your skin or in your sinuses. But, you don’t always see it. At any given time the body is coping with inflammation and stress from our normal routines.
It only comes into our awareness when the body is calling for help.
As this beaker fills up, the various systems in the body become over-worked. Then, you add the summer allergens in and physical stress. Exercise is a good form of stress, but does tax the system further. Eventually, this chemistry beaker gets over-filled and explodes! Enter in the symptoms: sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, fatigue, irritable bowels etc.
What can a personal trainer do to help?
Just like identifying habitual bad posture or ergonomics to help clients avoid injuries, you can help people identify stressors in their life to avoid allergen overload. You can’t stop mother nature from blooming or people from polluting the air. You can call attention to what’s in the control of your clients.
A medical doctor or naturopath is the best person to refer a client to if they need a specific diagnoses. Some doctors can run an allergy test in their office and identify exactly what’s causing the problems. Consider partnering with someone who can speak to your clients about allergens and provide a paper survey to help them identify what might be happening inside.
Allergy medicine: keep it on your radar
If your clients are taking medication for their allergies, it’s important for you to know. The side effects are different for everyone. They can cause heart rate changes, so monitoring this during a workout is a good idea. Some people have a suppressed appetite from the drugs they’ve ingested. They may not have eaten enough before coming to workout. Confusion, dizziness, drowsiness and vomiting occur in the worst cases from antihistamines – a type of allergy medicine. Decongestants, another common ingredient in allergy medicine can cause high heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, seizures and dryness among a few.
Educate yourself further about allergies so to keep your clients active all year long! It’s a fascinating topic and each person really is a unique chemistry lab, changing with the seasons.