Allergies have been booming for many years. Itchy eyes or violent sneezing fits are the most harmless symptoms. Asthma attacks or circulatory problems are worse. The long-planned participation in the marathon can sometimes falter. But how dangerous are allergies? And how can we do sports despite hay fever and birch pollen blowing around? We were looking for a renowned allergy expert and he and Prof. Randolf Brehler found.

Almost every third German suffers from an allergy, and the number is rising. The number of allergy sufferers has almost doubled since 2008. There is speculation about the reasons. Climate change is also considered to be a possible factor, because the pollen count is significantly stronger in hotter months and also begins earlier and earlier. Some allergy sufferers already complain of the first symptoms at the end of February, and in large cities soot and fine dust particles stick to the pollen. This also stimulates the immune system. Sports events such as marathons, but also everyday training such as jogging or playing football in the park can quickly become torture.

Allergies are not a question of age

Although young adults are particularly often affected, allergies can arise at any stage of life – but they can also disappear again. “We are currently observing that many older people suddenly develop an allergy. It may have something to do with our eating habits or excessive hygiene. What exactly play a role has not yet been conclusively clarified, ”explains Prof. Dr. Brehler from the Münster University Hospital across from FITBOOK.

What are typical symptoms of an allergy?

Of course, every person shows individual symptoms, which also depend on the intensity of the allergy. Common signs of an allergy are:

  • a runny nose
  • severe sneezing attacks
  • Difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • itchy eyes

Is exercise dangerous with an allergy?

“In principle, sport is also recommended for people with allergies,” says Prof. Brehler. Because training not only prevents obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes. “The lungs also benefit. And a strong lungs can cope better with the symptoms of an allergy. ”But:“ Allergy sufferers have to know their individual limits and adapt their training accordingly. ”

Take hay fever, for example: Birch pollen allergy sufferers who exercise outside in the spring often suffer from severe symptoms such as a runny nose or even shortness of breath. If these symptoms are not treated early or consistently, chronic lung problems can develop. “Therefore, bronchodilator medication should be inhaled before exercise,” says Prof. Brehler.

Sport and allergy: what symptoms go to the doctor?

Itchy eyes or constant sneezing are annoying, but not dangerous. These symptoms can be treated well with over-the-counter medicines called antihistamines. “However, if you have very pronounced symptoms such as shortness of breath, you should always consult an allergist,” emphasizes Prof. Brehler. “The doctor can use a skin test or a blood test to identify triggering allergens and clarify whether a specific immunotherapy (formerly also called desensitization) can provide relief.”

With a typical pollen allergy, nasal showers or not using nicotine can do a lot. Bed linen should also be changed as often as possible during the pollen season.

Does an injection from the doctor help with allergies?

What if none of that helps? Many allergy sufferers want a quick solution, especially before a sports event or long-awaited vacation. A syringe from the doctor that reliably relieves the symptoms is then a possible alternative. “However, these cortisone injections can have considerable side effects,” warns Prof. Brehler. As a result of the therapy, abscesses could occur, and with long-term treatment, among other things, increased bone loss. “Intramuscular injections with depot cortisone preparations must therefore be strictly discouraged.” If really necessary, corticosteroid tablets, which are then taken over a short period, are preferable.

How does diet affect my allergy?

Those who cannot tolerate walnuts, dairy products or certain fruits often have a food allergy. A nervous stomach, nausea and diarrhea are possible consequences that make exercise impossible. Caution is particularly advisable with so-called Wheat-Dependent Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis (WDEIA). This is an allergy to a certain wheat protein. Athletes with this allergy who train within around two hours after eating foods containing wheat must expect wheals, shortness of breath and circulatory problems.

Prevent allergies early on

But not eating certain foods is always the right thing to do. “It used to be assumed that not eating fish or peanuts prevented allergies,” says Prof. Brehler. “Today we know that the immune system has to deal with these allergens in order to develop such a tolerance.”

This should ideally be started after the 4th month of life. “Infants should be fully breastfed for the first four months and then eat as many different foods as possible through complementary foods. In this way, the development of allergies can be prevented at an early stage. ”And:“ If you know your body, can realistically assess load limits and seek advice from a competent allergist, you can get your allergies under control, ”emphasizes Prof. Dr. Brehler.

In case of doubt, the expert advises, you should take fast-acting medication with you to protect yourself in the event of an emergency. Then sport is fun again.