Outdoor athletes are more susceptible to stuffy sinuses and weepy eyes. Here’s how to find relief. – By Selene Yeager
It’s hard enough to get your rides in without worrying about riding in the wind and what the trees are up to. If seasonal allergies are messing up your training, it’s best to head them off at the pass, says Weinberger, who says there are three main methods of treatment you can consider to clear up your spring rides. Here’s how each works, with some special considerations competitive cyclists should know about.
“Antihistamine drugs do a pretty good job in fighting general allergy symptoms,” Weinberger says.
Of the most commonly used over-the-counter meds—cetirizine hydrochloride (Zyrtec), fexofenadine hydrochloride (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin)—he recommends Zyrtec first as the most effective. The one potential downside is that unlike Allegra and Claritin, Zyrtec does not have a non-drowsy formula. So be sure to test it on a non-riding day to see how it affects you.
Also consider taking Zyrtec at bedtime, as the sedative effect may only lasts a few hours while the anti-histamine benefits last 24. And be aware that certain varieties of OTC allergy meds (those designated with the letter D) also contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine, which is on the banned substance list in high doses.
Nasal sprays like fluticasone propionate (Claritin spray) and triamcinolone acetonide (AllerNaze) are also highly effective, particularly if your primary symptom is a stubbornly clogged nose, says Weinberger. However, if you’re a licensed competitive cyclist, be aware that these are steroid sprays, and fluticasone propionate is on the banned list.
If you think it might be an issue, checking whether you need a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) is prudent.
If all else fails, call an allergist and make an appointment to get “allergy desensitisation treatment,” i.e. shots. These shots work over time by helping your body get used to allergens so it is less likely to overreact when you’re exposed to them in the environment.
“It may or may not completely eliminate the need for medication, but it decreases it dramatically,” says Weinberger.
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