Riding With Allergies

Spring’s coming on, and in Florida, March means pollen counts in the 9 to 10 range (considered high to very-high). Riding when you have pollen allergies can be miserable, and dangerous. I try to stay off any kind of medication when I’m riding, because there’s nothing worse than feeling drowsy or blurry-eyed on the road (we’re talking allergies right now).

Of course, sneezing constantly is no fun either.

What causes pollen allergy reactions?

  • A grain of pollen looks like a very spiky sea urchin. When it enters your nasal and bronchial passages, it latches onto the mucous membranes and gets stuck.
  • These membranes have cells (called mast cells) full of histamines.
  • When an allergen trigger (like pollen) lands on one of these cells, a receptor sitting on top of the cell tells the cell to let loose on the histamines.
  • The histamine starts a series of annoying reactions like sneezing, watery eyes, and itching to help you get rid of the allergan.

What are some natural solutions?

  • Neti Pots are a way to flush your sinuses, but are really for after you ride. Someone mentions this in the LiveJournal discussion mentioned below.
  • Quercetin is a natural plant-derived compound (flavonoid) that helps keep the mast cells from releasing histamine. Flavonoids can be found in citrus and green tea.
  • Food can help. Add some horseradish, chili peppers or hot mustard to your food. They’re all temporary decongestants.
  • Stinging nettle is a natural antihistamine without the side effects (drowsiness, dry mouth) associated with the drugs most commonly used.

So, what are you options?
I usually go with a bandanna over my mouth and nose when riding in a half helmet. It helps cut down on what you’re breathing in, and actually works on days with moderate pollen counts. A full face gives you additional protection if you keep the vents closed.

Before I start out in the morning, I try and get an idea of the pollen count. You’ve got several options available.

You should also avoid certain kinds of food during ragweed season since they share allergans with ragweed:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Melons and bananas
  • Zucchini and cucumber

What have others tried? Here are a few conversations on the web:

  • LiveJournal’s gerardwing got a good “Riding with Alleriges” thread going with several riders giving their solutions.
  • Masks are available from several manufacturers. You can find reviews and comments on several different types at AchooAllergy.com’s blog. Respro does make a bandanna-style scarf called the Bandit Scarf.

You can also get more information on natural remedies and causes from several web sites: