Allergies For Olympic Athletes?

By Heather Legg

I, personally, am very excited about the upcoming winter Olympics in Vancouver this February. One thing I hadn’t thought of though, until I read this article, is the allergens the Olympians will face.

According to the article, the Olympics will take place during the peak of this area’s tree pollen season, which could cause problems for both visitors and athletes. January has been mild there and reports say that the Alder trees are already emitting their pollen. 

Olympic athletes can still take medicine containing pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in allergy medications, but levels cannot exceed 150 micrograms per milliltre of blood.
“If someone has allergy symptoms and normally takes a decongestant, they could get into a problem with a positive doping test,” said Dr. Bob McCormack, chief medical officer for the Canadian Olympic team.
One of the best known cases of inadvertent doping involved Canadian rower Silken Laumann, who had to give up her gold medal at the 1995 Pan Am Games after taking an over-the-counter decongestant to treat an allergy.

What gets tricky is being in a new environment. I’ll never forget the spring break we spent in Charleston, SC. My husband spent the whole weekend sneezing and miserable. He is prone to pollen allergies, but I’d never seen him like that. I think it’s because there was something new in the air that he wasn’t accustomed to and it was a shock to his system.

Hopefully this won’t be the case for these athletes who have been training so hard for so long. Besides the fact that there are limitations on medication, there’s also the chance that even if they are taking medication, it could interfere with performance. I always think that regardless of what manufacturer’s say, medication does effect well being. Maybe it’s not drowsiness, but medication does toy with the system.

Even the visitors could have trouble with the pollen. In the article it’s stated that though there may not be many alder trees in northern Europe or Asia, the pollen is similar to the birch trees there so cross reactions may be problematic.

Anyway, besides the allergy issues, enjoy the Olympics! It’s always exciting!

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