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Tips for Combating Summer Allergies

Tips for Combating Summer Allergies

The days are long, the sun is shining, outdoor activities are in full swing… and you’re miserable.

It sounds unfair, but it’s a common experience for over 50 million Americans who suffer from a host of different allergies during this time of year. Thankfully, there are many ways to treat or reduce their impact on day-to-day life. Here are some of the most common summer allergens, how to know if you’re having a reaction to them, and how to prevent or treat those reactions.

Grass and Weed Pollen

Unlike spring allergies, which usually come from tree pollen, grasses and weeds are the villains of summer allergies. Their pollen can travel easily with the wind, so you can be affected even if you don’t live near the pollen source.

What the allergy looks like: Pollen allergies often feel like a bad cold with such symptoms as sneezing, sniffling, and congestion. You might get red, watery eyes or your face might look puffy or tired. It’s likely to worsen when you’re outside, but it can be constant—even when you’re indoors.

What to do about it: Since it’s hard to avoid entirely, you’ll want to find an effective treatment for your symptoms and keep your exposure low.

  • Check weather forecast sites for daily pollen counts and air quality reports in your area. On days with high pollen counts or low air quality, stay inside as much as possible.
  • Put those COVID-19 masks to another use. Wearing a mask outside, especially when mowing, can help keep out pollen and pollution.
  • Dust and vacuum your home regularly.
  • If you’re outside for an extended period of time, be sure to shower and change clothes when you get home.
  • Take over-the-counter allergy medication. Nasal spray decongestants can only be used safely for a couple of days, but some antihistamines or decongestants for allergies can be taken daily whether you have active symptoms or not.
  • Use a Neti pot to clear out your nose and sinuses.
  • If over-the-counter treatments don’t work, your doctor may be able to prescribe a stronger solution.

Insect Stings

For the 2 million Americans allergic to stinging insects, it can be extremely painful and even deadly. The allergy is caused by the insect’s venom, not by the stinger itself.

What the allergy looks like: For mild reactions, there can be swelling and warmth around the sting, along with pain, itching, and redness. A severe reaction (called anaphylaxis) may include hives, swelling in the tongue or throat, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, and a drop in blood pressure. Severe reactions need immediate treatment.

What to do about it: Treating a sting allergy depends on how serious it is. Fortunately, it’s easier to avoid getting stung than it is to avoid pollen.

  • Don’t linger outdoors near flowering plants, hives or nests, food, or trash. These all can attract large numbers of stinging insects.
  • Avoid wearing perfumes that could attract insects.
  • If you have a severe sting allergy, don’t spend time outdoors alone.
  • For mild allergy symptoms, use your fingernail or something flat and thin (like a credit card) to scrape the stinger out right away. Don’t pull it, or it could release more venom. Wash the site and apply an antiseptic. Use ice for swelling and hydrocortisone cream or calamine for itching. Take an antihistamine if the itching or irritation is worse than usual and use an over-the-counter pain reducer, like ibuprofen, to help with soreness.
  • For a severe reaction, you may need to use an epinephrine pen, or EpiPen®. Even if you have one, have someone take you to Urgent Care right away to have a doctor monitor you and give you further treatment if needed.

Pollen Food Syndrome

If you have hay fever or pollen allergies, you might notice that eating seasonal fruits or vegetables brings on symptoms or makes them even worse. This is called Pollen Food Syndrome, where proteins in certain foods such as melons, carrots, peaches, or tomatoes mimic pollen in the body and cause an allergic reaction.

What the allergy looks like: Usually, the symptoms are the same as pollen allergies, although sometimes they can include abdominal pain or vomiting.

What to do about it: First, ask your doctor to rule out other kinds of food allergies and avoid foods that trigger them. However, cooking most of those foods changes the proteins to help make them safe to eat. If you eat something that gives you a reaction, taking an antihistamine should help.

Molds and Dust Mites

Heat and humidity are the perfect combination for mold spores and dust mites to grow and multiply. These pesky allergens tend to live in textiles like bedding and rugs.

What the allergy looks like: Similar to pollen allergies. They can also cause wheezing and trouble breathing.

What to do about it: You should treat it the same way you’d handle pollen allergies. Keep your house clean, wash clothes and bedding frequently, and use over-the-counter treatments. Keep the humidity in your home low to keep mold at bay.

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

The classic poison plant reaction—rash, itching, redness, blisters—is an allergic reaction to the oils on the leaves, and not everyone is affected. For those who are, it’s an itchy and sometimes painful experience.

What the allergy looks like: Within 24 to 72 hours of contact, the skin may be red, inflamed, have bumps or blisters, and swell up.

What to do about it: The best thing to do is to know what poison ivy, oak, and sumac look like, and avoid them completely.

  • If you’re going to be in wooded areas, wear knee socks or long pants.
  • If you come in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, wash your skin several times with soap as soon as you can. Put your clothes right in the wash.
  • Don’t scratch. Using calamine lotion on your skin can help reduce itching. For some, taking a warm bath or applying dry heat can temporarily stop the itch.
  • If your reaction is more severe, located on your face or genitals, causes a fever, or if you’re itching all over (not just at the site), visit Urgent Care for immediate treatment.

Take Care of Your Allergies

Hopefully, if you do have summer allergies your symptoms will be mild and easy to manage. Whatever you do, don’t ignore your reactions, especially if they’re severe. Always be cautious and go to Urgent Care if you have trouble breathing, dizziness, nausea, or a high temperature. Our Urgent Care services include virtual visits and pre-arrival check-in to help make sure that you get the care you need as quickly and easily as possible.