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Avoid Allergy & Asthma Triggers as You Shape Up

Allergy and Asthma image

Summer’s here! And it’s normal to want to get in shape for pool parties and trips to the beach. The decision to exercise 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.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and its allergist members, doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies & asthma, suggest 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 – 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 – unless chlorine is one of your asthma triggers, or you’re allergic to it. Chlorine allergy can cause everything from irritation – itchy red eyes or a rash – to trouble breathing. Your allergist can help you determine whether you should opt for the treadmill.

Don’t forget to bring your own latex-free exercise mat!

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 your skin. But if you have an allergy 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 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.


Not sure what’s making you sneeze and wheeze? An allergist can help ease your symptoms by identifying your allergy or asthma triggers and prescribing treatment. To find an allergist near you visit

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Spring/Summer 2011.