Mother Nature can throw a lot at you when you are a runner. Look at the hideously hot weather we are experiencing at the moment in the UK… OK, autumn may feel way too close at the moment, due to the persistent rain and darker evenings, and the reality it that September is only days away. Even though we will hopefully be running for a good few weeks yet in shorts and t-shirts, there’s no doubt that there is a tinge of ‘summer is nearly over and the leaves will be dropping soon’ in the air.
September is a beautiful month, full of the smell of bonfires. For me, it’s always going to be associated with conkers dropping from the trees. Each of my three girls have started their own shoe-box collection of conkers as the new school year starts throughout their primary education. Some have reached hundreds in numbers. We all associate with the changing seasons, and autumn heralds colder evenings, the hazy smoke of wood-burners being fired up and the creation of a little ball of excitement in your stomach that grows until Christmas arrives in December. I love autumn. Almost as much as I love spring.
The arrival of cooler autumn weather and darker evenings also means we tend to start to spend much more time indoors – resulting in greater exposure to house dust allergens. For the 5.4 million asthmatics in the UK, me included, this is often associated with worsening of my asthma symptoms. At first I start coughing more at night time (even more so on days when I’ve done a long run). Cold days that are also rainy are the worst. You soon forget how open and breezy your house is in the summer, as the windows stay shut against the cold. Put damp washing on the radiators – more coughing. Failure to hoover regularly – also more coughing.
It seems that what your body can cope with, or easily bounce back from, during the warmer summer months, can quickly spiral down into a chest infection. This is the worst case scenario – not because you are ill. But because you can not run. Last winter I couldn’t run from early November until late January. I’m hoping that never happens again.
Airborne allergens expert, Max Wiseberg, gave me some tips on reducing the amount of allergens getting into your body. Arm yourself now, and you will continue to run throughout the autumn and winter, ready to wow others and yourself with your strong base of fitness in the spring. Consistency, as with all things running, is crucial.
“The symptoms of indoor allergies caused by dust can be very similar to cold-like symptoms,” explains Max, “such as a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and sinus pain. In fact, many people think they have a caught a cold, when actually they have an allergy. So they either treat the wrong thing, or don’t bother at all.”
“In reality, their symptoms are the result of spending more time indoors amongst dust allergens than in the summer. Dust mite allergy is actually a reaction to proteins in the excretion of the dust mites; yes, that’s right, you’re allergic to dust mite poo! When these proteins are breathed in or make contact with the skin of an allergic person, their body reacts with typical hay fever symptoms.” This truth is quite disgusting!
All homes in the UK have dust mites, and due to their tiny size (around ¼ mm) and translucent bodies, they are almost invisible to the naked eye. But don’t worry – unless you have a dust mite allergy, they are harmless. Max continues: “Dust mites thrive in warm humid environments, our beds being one of their favourite spots. We spend about a third of our day in bed, shedding skin cells and creating moisture with our breath and bodies which the microscopic mites need to live on. So using allergy friendly mattress covers and bedding can help allergy sufferers – Allergy UK has a good range. Vacuum under beds daily, and try not to keep lots of things under beds as these will collect lots of house dust mite allergens. And vacuum mattresses and pillows regularly.
“To reduce the amount of allergens getting into your body, make sure you dust with a damp cloth and get to all those easily forgotten places like the tops of picture frames and door frames. Vacuum as often as possible; every day if possible, and remember to vacuum the furniture at least once a week – twice a week is better. It may also be beneficial to install “Allergy Friendly” flooring.”
Other useful tips to reduce the humid conditions dust mites and moulds thrive in are to avoid drying clothes inside over a radiator – this increases the humidity in your home and can result in mould, which releases tiny spores into the air that you breathe – and to keep the humidity in your house between 40% and 20% to control allergens. In addition, be careful when using harsh chemicals for cleaning, as the fumes can exacerbate breathing problems and cause skin irritation.
“Many people take anti histamines to cope with their allergy,” explains Max. “Histamines, as well as being the nasty things that cause our horrible symptoms, are also very useful things which keep us alert, attentive and awake. That is why anti histamines can make us drowsy and can go on to affect our performance at work.”
“An allergen barrier balm like HayMax can be used to help trap the allergens before they enter the body, reducing or helping to prevent symptoms. Applying the balm around the nostrils and/or the bones of the eyes can help reduce or prevent the symptoms of dust allergy.”
HayMax traps dust allergens in the air before they enter the body. As long as this is enough to keep the sufferer below their sensitivity level, the symptoms won’t be triggered. Applying the balm two or three times a day provides a highly effective, invisible barrier to airborne allergens.
So there you have it – such a simple solution to a huge problem for anyone who is allergic to house dust mites. Both my eldest highly atopic, asthmatic daughter and I use it.
As one pot lasts for months, it’s also cost effective (at £6.99). View it here.