We all know that exercise is good for us, but for many sportsmen and women, hay fever (allergic rhinitis) not only limits their performance, but exercise can also be the actual trigger for the allergic reaction in the first place, as these activities can put you in direct contact with certain hay fever triggers such as pollen and dust.

In fact, asthma and allergic rhinitis are among the most common problems experienced by those participating in sports, and often exist together. Rhinitis can actually cause lower respiratory disorders such as asthma.

A stuffy nose, itchy eyes and sneezing are common symptoms of allergic rhinitis, caused by the inflammation of the lining of the nose.

Approximately 20% of the general population are thought to suffer from allergic rhinitis, this figure has been found to be significantly higher amongst competitive athletes. A study conducted amongst Australian athletes during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, for example, found that 41%suffered from allergic rhinitis. Interestingly, those Olympic Games were only the second within a hundred year period to be held in spring – a peak allergen season!

There are many reasons why sports can trigger allergic rhinitis, and many reasons why this condition, when not managed properly, can hamper your ability to perform at your best.

A simple explanation includes that when running, we inhale greater volumes of air, and therefore are exposing ourselves to greater amounts of irritants .

Whether its cricket, cycling, tennis, rugby, running, walking or even swimming, if you are prone to allergic rhinitis, these types of activities can expose you directly to certain triggers which include pollen and dust.

Other triggers of particular relevance when exercise is done in outside urban areas include pollution and car exhaust fumes.

Evidence shows that swimmers often have increased levels of rhinitis and are known to complain of sneezing and nasal congestion, which has been attributed to the chlorination of the water. Chlorine compounds are now known to be a direct cause of rhinitis in swimmers.

In general, untreated rhinitis can have debilitating consequences, and can significantly interfere with a person’s quality of life. More specifically it has been shown to have negative impact on school or work performance, sleep and even in behaviour, all of which can affect an athlete’s performance. Furthermore, athletes with allergic rhinitis should speak to their doctor about being assessed for asthma, given the fact that they often exist together.

By using the correct treatment and managing allergic rhinitis properly, sporting abilities and performance need not be negatively affected.

Avoiding outdoor allergy triggers totally would help but this is obviously unrealistic. Monitoring of local pollen levels can help some people avoid being outdoors when the pollen count is particularly high. 

Using a product such as Allerguard™ Allergy Nasal Spray can be effective in protecting your nose against airborne allergens. It contains Ectoin®, an ingredient which forms a calming barrier against airborne allergens and a natural sea salt solution which cleans out the nose.

Allerguard™ has been shown to effectively reduce symptoms of a blocked nose, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing. It can be used several times per day, is preservative free, and is suitable for use in children and people with sensitive noses. Allerguard™ contains natural active ingredients.

In fact Allerguard™, which is available at all leading pharmacies, is listed on the Allergy Foundation South Africa (AFSA) website as an approved product as part of their Seal of Approval Programme. All products listed have been shown to be efficient in reducing allergens from the environment or the products have significantly reduced allergen or chemical content in accordance with the AFSA Certification.

Allerguard™ comes in a handy 20 ml dispenser  which can easily fit into your jacket pocket or gym bag.

Proper and accurate treatment of allergic rhinitis will allow sportsmen and women to compete at the same level as those athletes not affected by the condition.

Go to www.allerguard.co.za for more information.

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