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016 Hay Fever and the Cyclist

Hay Fever and the Cyclist

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is a common condition affecting children and adults. There is an increased incidence in adolescents and young adults. Because cyclists ride through grassland areas, exposure to allergens like pollen is enhanced. In fact, pollen allergy is the commonest allergic disorder world wide. Manifestations of seasonal allergic rhinitis include:
blocked nose ("cold-like" syndrome)
allergic rhinitis sneezing
itching of the soft palate and ear canals
itchy watery eyes
itchy nasal cavity and watery discharge from the nasal passages
post nasal drip, headache and irritability
allergic conjunctivitis, watery eyes and photophobia
puffy face


Sensitization may follow exposure to grass, tree or weed pollens.


Removing the pollen allergen is not possible if the cyclist wants to ride through the grasslands and participate in cycle tours and funrides.

Antihistamines and decongestant medications are effective but sedation is a drawback. Non-sedating agents such as Clarityne“, Zyrtec“ or Telfast“ are popular prescriptions.
Sodium cromoglycate (Rynacrom“) either as nose drops or nasal spray is also effective in the seasonal form of allergic rhinitis.

Topical steroid nasal sprays. Iflanaze“ and Beconase“ (aqueous nasal sprays) used intermittently during the height of the season are very effective. Side effects are uncommon, but nasal spray abuse must be guarded against. Seven to ten days is the usual period of treatment. A positive response can be expected within hours. This will bring relief as the upper respiratory tracts will become unblocked and facilitate breathing. Associated chronic asthma may be troublesome and mandates referral to an allergy specialist and pulmonologist.


Allergy Society of SA. Handbook of practical allergy, second edition, 2001.

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