For people who have allergies, the challenges of remaining physically active
can easily outweigh the benefits to their health and mental well-being.
Running, swimming, and even gardening -- how enjoyable can these activities be
when just taking a breath is so exhausting?
But having seasonal allergies doesn't mean you have to become a shut-in. Nor
does it mean, even in environments where pollen and other irritants are
plentiful, that you have to give up exercise. "Allergies are not a
disability,” says Clifford Bassett, MD. Bassett, an allergist/immunologist, is
the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. “With the
wonderful ways we have for diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma,” he
says, “people can do quite well.” Bassett tells WebMD he sees many people who
participate in sports at all levels. “It's a disease you can conquer and
control," he says.
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Tens of millions of Americans face the challenges of living an active
lifestyle with allergies every day. And the number continues to grow. According
to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, a nationwide survey
found that more than half the citizens in the U.S. tested positive to one or
more allergens. Allergic disease is the fifth leading chronic disease among all
ages in this country. And it costs billions each year in health care spending
and lost productivity.
Bassett recommends medical testing to reveal any potential allergies an
individual might have. He also says it’s important to understand the impact a
person's environment and lifestyle choices can have on allergies. Bassett
generally prescribes traditional medication to provide relief from allergy
symptoms. But, he says, there are also other approaches that can benefit people
Bassett tells WebMD that stress is a common problem for anyone with a
chronic health condition. And, he says, using techniques such as yoga,
breathing exercises, and diet to reduce stress can be very beneficial.
WebMD recently talked with a number of very active people who also have
allergies. We wanted to find out what they did to keep their allergies from
keeping them down. What we found is most of them relied on a mix of
conventional medication, complementary and alternative therapies, and ingenuity
to not only cope with their allergies, but to also physically thrive. Here are
Liz Erk: Runner, Rower, Skater
Liz Erk never believed she was strong enough, fast enough, or tough enough.
A runner in her youth, she would quickly run out of breath, wheezing and
panting for air. The same thing happened when she joined the rowing team at
"I used to beat myself up," says Erk, 31, of Boston. "I just
thought I was out of shape."
Fitness wasn't the problem. The same allergies that caused Erk to feel as if
she was suffocating when she was near a cat also affected her athletic
performance. Her whole family, in fact, is challenged by a bevy of allergens:
cats, trees -- particularly pine -- dust, and pollution. "I have memories
of visiting relatives with cats and we'd have to time the visits," she
says. "As I got to be 10 years old, I couldn't breathe around cats. It was
not a lot of fun."