Allergies Vs. Athletes

By: Dr. Lora Scott – Sports Medicine

Spring brings warmer weather, longer days, and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and spring sports. But for many children (and adults!) in Ohio, spring also brings watery eyes, sneezing, sniffles, itchy throats, and sometimes wheezing. Yes, it is allergy season in the Miami Valley.

My co-bloggers on the Dr. Mom Squad have shared some of the symptoms and treatment options for allergies, but what about when it comes to athletes. Your young soccer player is outside for long periods of time surrounded by grass and pollen. How can they find relief?

Traditional treatments include over-the-counter allergy medication and reducing exposure. This is difficult for children, especially those participating in outdoor sports. At times, it seems like allergy symptoms are just one more thing that goes along with the start of outdoor sports season. It is so common that many don’t seek treatment. (I’m guilty of that myself!)

So, what can you do? The first line of treatment is over-the-counter medication. There are several different brands of medication, but all work as an anti-histamine. Anti-histamines can cause drowsiness and effect your child’s energy level while playing sports. It may take trial and error to find one right for your child and their sport. (This is why I buy the generic). If you’ve been through the over-the-counter anti-histamines and still can’t get relief, it is time to see a doctor.

While trying to find the right treatment for your child, there are other things you can do to help with symptoms. After entering the house from outside, have your child leave any clothing or sports equipment close to the house entrance so that they’re not tracking pollen through the house. When away from home, bag it up and put it in the trunk. If they’re old enough to tolerate a sinus rinse, try using it after coming indoors. It can flush pollen and other allergens out of the sinuses before they become too irritating.

What else should you watch for? Wheezing. Young athletes who thought they outgrew asthma might start wheezing again when they are playing outdoors during allergy season. Exercise causes all of us to breathe rapidly and with open mouths. More air gets to the lungs, and it is not filtered as well. This means more pollen gets to the lungs too. People who haven’t wheezed in years might start wheezing again. Other symptoms which indicate your child’s asthma may be back for allergy season include a tight, dry cough, chest tightness, difficulty keeping up with teammates, or feeling short-of-breath. If unsure whether your child’s symptoms could be asthma or not, specialized doctors like pulmonologists can offer formal testing to evaluate your child’s lungs. Rest assure, there are also treatment options available if your child’s asthma flares up with the combination of exercise and allergies.

With the proper treatment, children with allergies or asthma should be able to enjoy outdoor sports just as much as the non-allergic, non-asthmatic children. And they should perform just as well too! Don’t let allergies and asthma slow down your child this sports season.

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