5 Surprising Summer Allergy & Asthma Triggers
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.
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.
Are You Making Your Allergies Worse?
Air filters, summer breezes, procrastination, and self-medication – each can delay relief from a stuffy nose, sneezing, sniffling, or other allergy symptoms. Be on the lookout for the following allergy-aggravating culprits.
Using the wrong air filter
Using an air filter to keep your home pollen-free is a good idea, but be sure it’s the right kind. Whole-house filtration systems do work, but change the filters regularly or you could be doing more harm than good.
Opening your windows
When your windows are open, the pollen can drift inside, settle into your carpet, furniture, or car upholstery, and continue to torture you. So keep your house and car windows shut during allergy season.
You may think you can put off or even do without medication, but the next thing you know, you’re stuffed up, sneezing, and downright miserable. Instead, get the jump on allergies by taking your medication before the season gets under way.
Perhaps you’re not sure exactly what’s making you feel awful, so you switch from one medication to the next hoping for relief. Your best bet is to see an allergist, who can determine just what’s triggering your symptoms and suggest treatment. You might even benefit from allergy shots, which can stop your symptoms altogether.
Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, May/June 2012.