One in Three Marathon Runners May Suffer Post-Race Allergies

Mar 17, 2011
Outside Magazine

A new study found that one in three runners that enter the London Marathon may suffer from allergies after the race, according to Science Daily. Dr. Paula Robson-Ansley and a team at Northumbria University gathered 150 runners to take a blood test, complete a questionnaire, and report symptoms after the London Marathon. More than 60% of the runners reported symptoms, and roughly 35% of runners had an antibody show up in their blood tests that suggested an allergic reaction.

"These post-event sniffles might seem minor, but there are clear risks that people could go on to develop exercise-induced asthma and airway inflammation," said Dr. Robson-Ansley. "Our survey also revealed that only 8% were taking anti-allergy medication so there is a clear gap between the number of people who could benefit from treatment and the number actually doing so."

While 14% of the runners tested positive for a reaction to tree pollen, 29% tested positive for a reaction to grass pollen.

How should you treat such allergies during race season. Here are some nuggets of advice from Dr. Robson-Ansley:

• If you think you have allergies, you need to find out as much as you can and develop a management plan.
• Ask yourself the following:
o What time of year are you affected?
o What causes your allergies (blood and skin-prick tests may be necessary)?
o What are your normal symptoms?
• Consider using a corticosteroid nasal spray or a non-sedating antihistamine as a preventative measure. But be aware that it can take up to two weeks for the treatment to work fully (and avoid taking non-sedating antihistamines around competitions).
• Know your training and competition environment. Find out about typical pollen counts for the location and time of year. Tree pollen for example is usually released in the spring, grass pollen in late spring and early summer, and weed pollens in late summer into autumn.
• Try to minimise exposure to pollens by running when the pollen count is low (cooler and cloudy days are associated with lower pollen counts compared to warmer, drier days). Shower and wash your hair after outside exercise to get rid of residual pollen. Change your clothing and rinse your nose with salt-water washes after exercise.
• Remember that asthmatic athletes take medication regularly and according to instruction.  Talk to your GP about whether you might need additional medication or to change your medication if you are training or competing in high pollen or in polluted environments.

--Joe Spring

Filed To: Adventure, Science, Running

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