Summer Fun - Is it Possible When You Have Allergies?

  • Most of us look forward to the warm, sunny days of summer, whether we're getting a break from school for a few weeks, taking a week's vacation, or even just enjoying being outdoors on our days off. But when you have nasal, eye and/or skin allergies, summer can present a number of challenges to enjoying life and being outdoors in the sun and in nature.


    In the past, I've written quite extensively on both spring and fall allergies, but haven't specifically covered summer allergies. So, this post will address some of those summertime allergy challenges and provide some tips for dealing with summer allergies.

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    Tree, Grass & Weed Pollens


    Pollen is probably one of the most problematic allergens that people with allergies deal with during the summer months. In the spring, as trees are budding, greening and blooming once again, tree pollen is everywhere, but by the time summer heat arrives, tree pollen levels are mostly low and grass pollen takes over as a mischief maker. But by summer's end, ragweed and other weed pollen producers become the most powerful allergens triggering allergy misery in sensitive sufferers like me... and you?


    Read more about pollen and how to deal with it here


    Understanding the daily pollen count and staying indoors when it is high is the best way to deal with pollen allergy.


    By the way, if you have pollen allergies, you could also be susceptible to something called oral allergy syndrome, or pollen food allergy, a pollen and food cross-sensitivity that actually results in itchy, tingly mouth, tongue, throat and lips after eating certain fruits and vegetables.


    Outdoor Molds


    Mold spores can be found in many places outdoors during late summer. Some trees drop their leaves as early as August, and mold spores are often found in leaf piles on the ground. But if you camp and/or hike, old leaves may be found on the ground in the woods almost everywhere.


    For you gardeners, mold spores are also found in soil, so beware!


    Learn more about molds and how to avoid them here


    Stinging Insects


    Bugs... I hate them; don't you? But for some people, bugs go beyond just being "yucky" or annoying. They actually present a severe allergy threat. Certain so-called stinging insects, such as wasps, honeybees, hornets and fire ants can cause a severe allergic reaction that may even be life-threatening in some people.


    If you might be one of those people, then it's essential to know how to avoid these insects and what to do if the worst happens and you do get stung.


    Learn more about insect allergies here


    Poison Plants


    When summer arrives, so do a whole host of poisonous plants. They are not really poisonous per se, but they CAN cause severe skin allergy rashes in sensitive people. Plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are the main offenders.


    Do you know what they look like and where they are found? If you don't, and you are sensitive to these plants, then it's time to get the knowledge you need to stay safe and healthy this summer!


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    Read AAFA's article on poison plants


    Sun Allergy


    A few unlucky people are sensitive to sunlight. When their normally covered skin is exposed to summer sun, they can break out in uncomfortable rashes and so forth. One cause is a condition called solar urticaria, which means hives caused by exposure to sunlight.


    The skin on your face or other areas of the body is unlikely to react to sunlight; it tends to be areas that are exposed more with summer clothing; think about areas of the body exposed by shorts, tank tops, sandals and swimsuits.


    People who have this condition actually produce antibodies against proteins found in their own skin. These proteins react to the sunlight, which causes an allergic reaction. This reaction can be fairly mild or may even cause anaphylaxis, if the amount of skin exposed to sunlight is large enough. Symptoms can often be controlled with oral antihistamines or a topical steroid cream, as needed.


    But are you truly allergic to the sun... or is it that suntan lotion you're using? If you have sensitive skin, it might not be the sun causing that itchy rash. It could just be the sunblock you applied to protect yourself from the sun. This is called "contact dermatitis" which is simply a skin reaction to something you come into contact with.


    Sunblock preparations can contain a number of allergy-triggering substances, such as perfumes, preservatives and so forth. If you think this might be happening with you, look for a hypoallergenic sunblock.


    One last thought on sun allergies... it could be that you are simply reacting to the heat. Heat is a common trigger for people who suffer from eczema. I can attest to that; my eczema is often worse during the summer in areas when sweat accumulates such as my inner elbows.


    Travel & All Things New and Different


    Another common factor with summer allergies is that you are venturing forth from your usual environment, and that can expose you to all sorts of new allergens and other irritants that you don't normally come into contact with.


    You might come into contact with new plants in new places, that you didn't even know you were sensitive to. Both my brother and daughter have had severe reactions to sagebrush... who knew?


    Staying in hotel rooms or other people's homes might expose you to dust mites, pet dander and molds you're not used to, or even secondhand smoke. If you camp, you might find that wood fire smoke sets off your allergy symptoms.


    Learn more about the risks of vacations & get some tips on staying healthy when you travel


    In Summary


    While summer can be a great time for fun, sun and getting "back to nature", it can also present some risks for us allergy sufferers. Still, you CAN stay healthy or at least learn how to deal with the risks in the most effective way, if you take time to educate yourself.


    Please take time to explore all of the articles I've linked to in this post and then come back and leave some comments or tips of your own to add to our collective experience and wisdom, won't you?

Published On: July 27, 2011