Travel and competitive play can be a challenge for someone who has seasonal allergies, as two-time Olympic gold-medal winner Misty May-Treanor can attest. She has to be ready for anything the air serves up before a game.
May-Treanor, who suffered from both seasonal allergies and exercise-induced asthma as a child, says the heavy smog that was in Beijing during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games triggered classic symptoms—itching, puffy eyes and sneezing—before she and her partner, Kerri Walsh, competed in women’s beach volleyball.
“It’s not fun—especially when you have a chest cold—trying to do what we do,” she says of her sport, in which she’ll compete again in London this summer. “You’re coughing the whole time.”
Her allergies typically trigger a sinus infection and a chest cold. That could have knocked her out of competition in Beijing, but quick treatment from medical staff kept her in the game. May-Treanor and Walsh won the gold medal, and May-Treanor was named most outstanding player.
Now a seasoned traveler, May-Treanor can remember places by their air quality. She knows the pollen in Europe and the dust in Arizona. She works with Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to raise awareness for patients to get symptoms treated before allergies evolve into a full-fledged illness.
“You’ve got to listen to your body,” she says. “You wouldn’t let your car keep running with an engine light on. You get it fixed.”