Outdoor spring and summer activities can bring plenty of unwanted guests – from mosquitos and rain to your nosey next-door neighbor. The last thing you want to worry about is allergy and asthma triggers putting a damper on your warm weather plans. Before you resign yourself to spending these beautiful, sunny days indoors, try these tips to help you identify the allergy and asthma triggers that may be lurking in your backyard and prevent them from spoiling your outdoor fun.
Steer clear of stings.
Backyard bugs can be more than just a nuisance. For people who are allergic to insect stings, they can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. If you have a known insect allergy, always carry your prescribed epinephrine. You can avoid stings by always wearing shoes in the yard, keeping food covered, and not drinking from open soft drink containers, which attract bugs. Skip sweet-smelling perfumes, deodorants,
and hairspray, and avoid wearing brightly colored clothing.
Grass, tree, and weed pollens aren’t the only environmental allergy and asthma triggers. Outdoor molds can grow on rotting logs, in compost piles, and on grasses and grains. Warm weather promotes mold growth, which can lead to sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy throat and eyes, hives, and wheezing. If your symptoms are severe, your allergist may prescribe treatment that goes beyond over-the-counter medications, such as immunotherapy to help your body build a natural immunity to the trigger.
Warm weather promotes mold growth, which can lead to sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy throat and eyes, hives, and wheezing.
Screen your sunscreen.
While it is possible to be allergic to the sun and break out in hives after exposure, you might also be allergic to your sunscreen. If you notice a rash or itchy skin after applying sunscreen, the chemicals in the lotion might be causing contact dermatitis. Opt for natural sunscreens or those that don’t use the chemicals benzophenone, octocrylene, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), which can commonly cause contact dermatitis.
Bring your own barbecue.
If you have food allergies, attend backyard barbecues with caution. Not only can food allergens be hidden in salads and sauces, cross-contamination can also occur, commonly when the same utensils are used for grilling and serving side dishes and when condiment bottles are shared. Bring an allergen-free dish for yourself, and use condiment packets. Always carry two doses of prescribed epinephrine as well.
Stifle the smoke.
Smoke from the grill, fireworks, or bonfire can be extremely bothersome if you have asthma; it can even trigger an asthma attack. Sit upwind of the smoke, and avoid getting too close. Always carry your reliever inhaler.
Be careful of chlorine.
Warmer weather means getting in the water, but some people fear a chlorine allergy. While chlorine isn’t actually an allergen, it can be irritating, causing eye and nose itching. And it can cause some with asthma to experience difficulty breathing. Usually, washing the affected area with clean water removes the irritant, although sometimes, a corticosteroid cream may need to be prescribed.
Take notice of the temperature.
You’ve been looking forward to enjoying the warm weather, but be careful of sudden temperature changes, which can trigger an asthma attack. Going inside a cold air-conditioned building or jumping into cold water could be a trigger.
Watch out when you work out.
Consider indoor exercise and other activities on hot, humid, and high-pollen days, and watch out for “ozone alert” days. Exercise outdoors when pollen counts are at their lowest – pre-dawn or in the late afternoon or evening. Take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothing after exercise, as pollen can stick to your hair, clothing, and shoes, causing you to bring pollen indoors.
Mind your mouth.
Spring and summer means the bounty of farmers markets. If you suffer from hay fever and have had an itchy mouth or scratchy throat after eating certain raw fruits or vegetables, you may have oral allergy syndrome. Oral allergy syndrome is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and some raw fruits and vegetables. Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome include itchy mouth, scratchy throat, and swelling of the lips, mouth, or tongue. Because the symptoms often subside quickly once the fresh fruit or raw vegetable is swallowed or removed from the mouth, treatment is not usually necessary. Once fruit is cooked, the symptoms typically go away as well.
Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Spring/Summer 2016.