poison-ivy2Allergies can negatively affect your daily life. Most of us who suffer from allergies look forward to May, when the watery eyes, sniffling and sneezing seem to dissipate. But if you think that with spring, the allergy season has also passed, then you are wrong. Allergens are still on the rampage and attacking your system. However, there is good news. Preventing allergy attacks can be as simple as figuring out what the triggers are. Below we discuss the top 5 causes of summer allergies and possible ways to cope and prevent them.

Summer Pollen
Pollens vary from one region to another.

  • Trees yield pollen early on in the spring season.
  • Late spring pollen is produced by grass followed by weed pollen in summer.
  • Late July through August, many are affected by ragweed.
  • Pollen totals are highest on warmer, dry and breezy days.

An option to consider is to schedule events or outside activities early in the morning.  Some people wait until after it rains or evenings to plan outdoor activities.

Bee allergies
Bees, yellow jackets, wasps, hornets and many other insects can cause a reaction if you are stung. In the warmer months of summer, many of us are enjoying the lakes, hiking, cook-outs and other fun open air activities. But with summer comes insect bites and stings that can sometimes be harmful.

Life threatening allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, is a severe reaction to a specific allergen, or allergic trigger. Suggested symptoms to watch for:

  • Swelling in your face, tongue or throat
  • Breathing trouble
  • Hives, itching or swelling in larger parts of the body, not just where the stinging occurred
  • Diarrhea or nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps in abdomen

If you are allergic to bees, you may want to consult your doctor about using and carrying an epinephrine shot. You may also want to consider wearing an alert bracelet or necklace.

A few tips to possibly prevent stings:

  • Think about wearing closed shoes and not walking barefoot in the grass.
  • Try not drinking from open soda cans as they attract bees.
  • Consider avoiding sweet smelling perfumes or colognes.
  • Driving with windows closed can help as well.

Another culprit related to allergy attacks in the summer is mold. Outdoor mold allergic reaction can begin in late summer and fall. According to the Asthma and Allergy foundation, certain mold spores peak late in the summer. Only a few types of mold can possibly trigger allergies.

  • If you suffer from any respiratory mold allergies, your immune system could overreact if you breathe in mold spores.
  • Mold allergies can make you cough and make your eyes itch.
  • It’s suggested that mold is linked to asthma and shortness of breath.
  • This fungus, mold, is an organism found throughout nature. Spores called seeds can be spread by the wind outside and even indoors.

Being allergic to one specific kind of mold may not mean you are allergic to others. Allergic reaction from mold can be most common in July throughout late summer and, with molds growing in many different places, allergies can occur year round.

Here’s how you can possibly reduce mold levels:

  • Control moisture inside the home using a dehumidifier
  • Consider keeping windows and doors closed and use an air conditioner
  • Water leaks in bathrooms, basements and kitchens may need to be fixed
  • Try staying inside when mold counts are published in the high range

When mold spores counts are high, you could follow a few preventative steps to control the mold.  Keeping it out of your home could save you from allergic reactions.

Sunscreen and Poison Ivy
Tan lines and sunburns mark a day spent outdoors in the sun.  Choosing and applying sunscreens can be helpful to keep skin damage at bay.  Picking the right sunscreen is important.

Here’s how sunscreens work:

  • Chemically Absorbed: Sunscreens absorb the ultraviolet radiation (UV). They turn the energy into less harmful forms of radiation that may cause less damage to our skin.
  • Physical Blocking: Sunscreens reflect the radiation from the sun away for your skin. This is said to allow skin allergies if not absorbed.

Here’s what causes sunscreen allergies

  • Reactions to sunscreens can happen anywhere it is applied. It’s said to be more common on areas of our body with the most exposure to the sun. Our chins and neck areas are not as commonly said to be affected.

Photo-contact dermatitis is said to happen with sun exposed areas of the body. Common places for this to occur are:

  • Face (typically not the eyelids)
  • V section of our upper chest area
  • Lower neck and back of hands
  • Forearms

Contact dermatitis to sunscreens is said to occur as a result of an allergy to the active ingredients. It may also be a reaction to the preservative and fragrances in the product if you have skin sensitivity to cosmetics or lotions. It is therefore suggested to avoid using certain sunscreens if you have sensitive skin.

Poison Ivy
Poison ivy is the most common of allergens. The saying “leaves of three, let em’ be,” reminds us to stay away from poison ivy. Poison ivy is common throughout the U.S., especially around large bodies of water like rivers and streams. It is also common in our backyards. It is said to have the ability to grow in a variety of places and therefore makes our susceptibility to it even greater.

  • Poison ivy is said to be the most common allergen to worry about. It’s coated with resin-like sap and contains chemicals called urushiol.
  • Most of us come into contact with the leaves of poison ivy, but it is still important to avoid the entire plant.
  • Symptoms usually begin with severe itching. Redness, swelling and burning can follow the itching along with blisters.
  • The breakout time is said to be 48 to 72 hours after you come into contact with this plant. Most people are said to have been exposed at least once in their lifetime.
  • Tougher areas of the skin that seem to be more resistant are palms of hands and soles of your feet.
  • Thinner layers of your skin, such as eyelids and underarms are said to have a stronger reaction.

Poison ivy cannot be transmitted from person to person. The fluid from the blister actually contains little to no resin at all. In other words, touching another person with the poison ivy rash should not affect you.

While an allergic reaction can occur as a result of exposure directly with the plant, it can also occur because of indirect exposure. Clothing, shoes, gardening equipment, and pets can possibly cause indirect exposure.

Avoiding exposure is said to be the best way to prevent allergic reactions.

  • Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when hiking in wooded areas is important.
  • Wearing gloves while you garden is also a great idea.
  • Watching your pets closely when loose in the yard can help.
  • If they rub against the plant, the resin can stick to their fur.
  • Washing your pet after outdoor play is said to reduce the spread of resin.

Seasonal Fruits
Many people may experience a “cross reaction” from pollens and fruits/nuts and spices. People are said to experience “oral allergy syndrome” and can have itchiness of the mouth, lips and tongue as a result from the ingestion of some of the following fruits:

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Prunes
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Bananas and more

Most reactions are said to be only mild, often only affecting the mouth. Another symptom can be swelling of the throat and sensation of closing.

Different types of fruits can cause allergic reactions such as mangoes and bananas. The symptoms can occur within just a few minutes. Symptoms include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Dyspnoea
  • Asthma

If you suspect you have been inflicted by any of the allergies above, consider asking your doctor for a skin prick test.  The test can determine which allergens you may be sensitive to. Following the guidelines above may help to reduce exposure and relieve allergic symptoms. Preventing allergic reactions can be simple if you avoid certain situations and remain aware of your situation.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michele Holincheck, FNP