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5 Surprising Summer Allergy & Asthma Triggers

Allergy and Asthma image

Summer means barbeques, festi­vals, and other outdoor activities, and if you experience allergic reactions to grass pollens, you might be running for cover. However, seasonal allergies can also affect those without pollen sensitivities due to unexpected summer staples, such as certain fruits and vegetables, campfires, and changes in the weather.

“Although symptoms may not always be severe, summertime allergies and asthma are serious and, in some cases, deadly,” says allergist James Sublett, MD, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Public Relations Committee. “However, these conditions shouldn’t damper summer fun. Proper diagnosis and treatment involves more than just relieving symp­toms; it can find the source of your suffering and stop it.”

By planning, seeing an allergist, and knowing the causes of allergy and asthma, even those with the most sensitive noses and lungs can enjoy summer festivities. Here are five surprising summer allergy and asthma triggers, as well as some sug­gestions for coping with them.

Toasting marshmallows or sitting out at a bonfire is a lot less fun if it results in an asthma attack.

1 Summer Fruits and Veggies
An otherwise healthy snack can mean an oral allergy syndrome for people whose lips begin to tingle after sinking their teeth into a juicy peach – or melon, apple, celery, or other fresh fruits and vegetables. People with common grass allergies can also have this condition, which is a cross-reaction between similar proteins in certain fruits and vegetables and the allergy-causing grass, tree, or weed pollens. The simple solution is to avoid the offending food, or just put up with the annoying but short-lived (and seldom dangerous) reaction. If symp­toms are bothersome, see an allergist to identify the offending pollen and develop a treatment plan to find relief.

2 Changes in the Weather
Be it sti­fling humidity or a refreshing cool breeze, sudden changes in the weather can trigger an asthma attack. Wind can spread pollen and stir up mold, affect­ing those who have grass or tree pollen and mold allergies. Your doctor can help you develop an allergy and asthma action plan to ensure your symptoms are kept in check no matter the season or the temperature.

3 Campfire Smoke
Toasting marsh­mallows or sitting out at a bonfire is a lot less fun if it results in an asthma attack. Smoke is a common asthma trigger. Sit upwind of the smoke and avoid getting too close to help prevent an asthma flare-up.

4 Stinging Insects
As if the pain isn’t bad enough, it is possible to develop a life-threatening allergic reaction to the sting of yellow jackets, honeybees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. Cover up when gardening or working outdoors, avoid brightly colored clothing, forget the per­fume, and take caution when eating or drinking anything sweet, all of which attract stinging insects. Be especially careful with open soft drink cans. Your doctor might advise carrying epineph­rine for emergency relief in the event of being stung. See an allergist for skin testing to identify the offending insect and ask about allergy shots, which can provide life-saving protection.

5 Chlorine
Although not an allergen, the smell of chlorine from pools or hot tubs can be an irritant and cause flares of either allergy-like eye and nose symp­toms or asthma in some people.


Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Spring/Summer 2012.