More than one in six Canadians have hay fever and there are many other allergies people deal with on a regular basis, including food, pet dander, and mold allergies. For someone wanting to join in with sports, allergies can be downright debilitating. Imagine trying to participate in a sport while your eyes are streaming and you keep sneezing. This is particularly serious for athletes involved in competitive team sports, so it’s important to take control of allergies before they control you. This can be done by avoiding the allergen altogether or taking medication to try to manage symptoms.
Managing allergies outdoors
For severe allergies, it’s best to try to avoid the time of day when the allergen is worse. For example, people with hay fever often find it’s worse first thing in the morning and at night. However, this can be difficult for athletes who train for team sports and need to fit in with other people’s schedules. In this case, it’s best to try to manage allergies with medication. Allergy medication should be taken daily to help it build up in the body. It can be helpful to monitor pollen levels by checking online beforehand and avoid going outdoors when levels are high, if possible.
Many sports can be done indoors where athletes will get a break from pollen and many other allergens. Switching to an indoors version of your sport or choosing an indoor-only sport means you can completely avoid pollens. When traveling to an indoor training session try to go in a car and keep windows closed to reduce the likelihood of triggering allergies. Bear in mind that many people often have multiple allergies, so you may still struggle indoors, such as with wheezing, coughing, and sneezing. This could indicate an allergic reaction to mold, especially if the weather is humid or damp when symptoms are worse. Have a look around to see if there’s any obvious mold and ask someone in charge if they can clean it.
Make people aware and plan accordingly
Regardless of what you’re allergic to, make sure your coach and team know that you’re dealing with allergies and let them know what to do in case of an emergency. For example, some people may be allergic to bee or wasp stings, which are more likely in the summer when playing outdoors. This can lead to anaphylactic shock and require a shot of epinephrine, which will likely need to be administered by someone else. Make sure they know where it is, how to administer it, and that they need to call for emergency services afterwards. For minor allergies, make sure you have access to a first aid kit with latex-free bandages and antihistamines.
Dealing with allergies can be tiresome, but once they’re well managed you’ll find that symptoms ease a little or you can predict when they’ll be worse and try to avoid the allergen altogether. While it’s important to take responsibility for any allergies you have, make others aware so that they can provide help if you ever need it.
Contributed by Jess Walter