Getting in shape is good news for your health. But if you have allergies or asthma, the hidden triggers at the gym may be bad for your condition.
Dr. Steven McEldowney of Allergy and Asthma Care of Blakeney, a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), suggests the following tips to keep your visits to the health club sniffle, sneeze and wheeze free:
- Bring your own mat – Yoga isn’t relaxing if you break out in hives thanks to that cushy mat likely made of latex. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yoga or other floor exercises. If you’re allergic to latex, bring your own latex free mat.
- Not everyone in the pool – “Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for most people, particularly those with asthma. Sometimes, though, heavily chlorinated water can trigger symptoms from irritation - itchy red eyes or a rash - to trouble breathing,” said allergist Dr. McEldowney. Your allergist can help you determine whether you should stick to swimming in fresh or salt water or opt for the treadmill.
- Check the label before you energize – Energy bars and protein shakes can help you make it through your workout. But if you have a nut, wheat, egg, soy or milk allergy, be sure you carefully read the ingredients first.
- Protect yourself from the disinfectant – Gyms often use a disinfectant spray to try to keep equipment germ-free. But many of those sprays have a strong odor and contain problematic chemicals or VOCs (volatile organic compounds). That could be why you sneeze or wheeze every time you hit the gym, so it’s a good idea to use your allergy or asthma medication before you work out.
- Make sure your skin breathes, not itches – Many exercise clothes are made of polyester and nylon, which helps keep sweat off of your skin. But if you are sensitive to synthetic materials, these fabrics can make you itch like crazy. Check clothing labels before you purchase. Lycra (spandex) – which gives clothes that comfy stretch – is higher quality and less likely to irritate.
- Warm up and cool down – Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) can cause chest tightness and trouble breathing in people who have asthma, and sometimes in others, too. If you run into breathing problems when you exercise, ease in and out of workouts and use an inhaler before exercise. Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. And if you have a cold, take it easy as viruses can be an asthma trigger.