10 ways to ensure allergies don’t ruin your summer fun
Summer is here, and it's time to get outside again!
But what if you suffer from common summer allergies? Will you be relegated to staying cooped up inside all day? Or will the pollen counts spare you and allow you to spend a little fun in the sun?
There are plenty of ways to prevent and treat summer allergies, from antihistamines to nasal sprays and immunotherapy.
Don't let your allergies ruin your summer fun. Our in-house allergist, Dr. Chet Tharpe, has pulled together his top recommendations for how to deal with your allergies — and make the most of your summer.
Summer allergens are plants and pollen that cause allergy symptoms during the summertime.
The most common allergens are ragweed pollen and grasses. Both allergens are prone to causing uncomfortable symptoms throughout the summer.
Not only do grasses contain pollen (which is one of the most aggressive instigators of allergy symptoms), but grass can continually cause symptoms as it grows and is mowed throughout warmer months.
Summer allergies can be a particularly bitter pill to swallow since we spend so much time outdoors in June, July and August. Sometimes staying indoors just doesn’t work with our social or chore schedules.
Most allergy sufferers complain about allergy symptoms in the spring, yet that doesn’t mean you won’t experience sneezing, itching, or redness during the other months, either.
Spring is simply when the majority of plants are blooming and pollinating (read: spreading pollen through the air).
If you suffer from allergies during other times of the year, you may be allergic to plants that are more likely to bloom June through November, such as fungi and ragweed.
Or, you may be allergic to mold, which is more likely to grow in the summer and fall months.
Before treating your allergy symptoms, you should get tested for allergies. You may do this at a doctor's office or with an at-home testing kit. At a doctor’s office, you may undergo a skin scratch or blood test. At-home allergy tests only require a small finger prick.
Luckily, there are a few measures we can take to ensure allergies don’t ruin our summer.
In addition to avoiding outdoor allergens, there are plenty of over-the-counter, prescription and preventative treatments available to keep allergens from ruining cookouts, sporting events and vacations.
Summer is the prime-time season for grass pollination, and grass pollen can cause fits for allergy sufferers.
Mold spores can also thrive in the summer months, especially on damp, sticky days with high humidity, causing their own share of allergy problems. If high levels of air pollution also crash the party, the combination of two or all three of these triggers can create allergy symptom overload.
Obvious allergy entry points such as doors and windows need to stay closed.
Unfortunately, allergens such as pollen and mold spores can be sneaky and catch a free ride into your home by way of your clothes, shoes, hair and skin.
Thus, removing clothing immediately upon entering your home and showering can be extremely beneficial. Whatever you do, keep shoes and dirty clothes out of the bedroom if at all possible.
Air conditioners are important allies in the battle against summer allergens. They play key roles in keeping your house cool, lowering humidity, and filtering allergens.
Since allergens love to play in hot, humid environments, keeping your indoor temperature in the high 60F to low 70F with a humidity level between 30% and 50% is ideal.
Also, change air filters monthly and use HEPA filters if possible, which will trap small fine allergens and irritants including mold, pollen and dust.
Anything that can collect dust, will.
Think stacks of books and magazines, trinkets or ornaments. Even extra furniture, blankets and pillows can collect dust.
Dust that is visibly seen is home to dust mites, which are microscopic allergens that cause fits for allergy sufferers.
Pollen that has snuck indoors can attach to these items as well and cause their fair share of symptoms. Do yourself a favor and remove any non-essential items that you rarely use.
Rugs and carpets create cozy homes for dust mites, mold spores and pollen.
Vacuum at least weekly to cut down on mold and pollen build-up. If you have rugs or floor mats that are washable, weekly washings are also ideal. Hard surfaces also need attention and should be mopped weekly to reduce allergens.
Dust mites, one of the most common and prevalent allergens, thrive in the summer months. They love fabric and cushiony materials such as linens, pillows, pillowcases, mattresses and box springs.
Wash all linens and bedding in the hottest water possible at least weekly to ward off dust mites. Dust mite-proof pillowcases and mattress/box-spring covers can also help.
Also, dust mites love humidity so keeping the humidity level in your bedroom below 50% (and ideally closer to 35%) is recommended.
Cockroaches and rodents such as rats and mice are strong allergy inducers, so keeping them out of the house is very important.
Food and water sources such as crumbs, open garbage cans and standing water are strong attractants for these critters.
Ensure that you keep your kitchen free of open garbage containers and your counters and pantries free of crumbs. Also, ensure that there is ample drainage to keep water away from the house.
Lastly, make sure to seal all possible entry points such as cracks or openings in and around doorways, windows, screens and vents.
Try to bathe your pets a minimum of once a week to keep these allergens in check.
Furthermore, this may help decrease the likelihood that your pets develop allergies as well.
Traditional over-the-counter medications that may control symptoms include intranasal steroid sprays such as Flonase® (fluticasone propionate) or Nasacort® (triamcinolone acetonide) and non-sedating antihistamines such as Zyrtec® (cetirizine) or Allegra® (fexofenadine).
Both work best when used daily but each has its own advantages and limitations.
Nasal steroid sprays work well for all nasal allergy symptoms including swelling and congestion; however, they offer minimal benefit when used sporadically or as needed.
On the other hand, antihistamines can start working in as little as 20 minutes. They are also still effective when used sporadically.
Although they do a great job with most allergy symptoms including itching, sneezing and drainage, they are not as effective as nasal steroid sprays for stuffy, congested noses.
Another downside to antihistamines is their side effects. Some antihistamines may cause drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth or dizziness.
There is some evidence that natural allergy treatments and supplements including Japanese Benifuuki green tea, butterbur and spirulina can be effective for seasonal allergies.
Yet, we need more data to understand the effects of these supplements at this time.
One effective way to treat allergies before symptoms start is to train the body to stop overreacting to allergens. Allergy immunotherapy is one way to do this.
Immunotherapy is available through subcutaneous injection or sublingual therapy.
Allergy shots or injections (also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy) may help train your body to stop reacting to allergens, decreasing your symptoms and need for medication.
These shots may be administered at a doctor’s office (preferably through an allergy specialist), usually weekly for the first several months and then monthly for up to several years after that.
While subcutaneous shots are considered effective, they may also have side effects. The medical professional that administers your injection may ask you to stay for up to 45 minutes after receiving the shot to monitor for possible anaphylaxis.
You may also need to carry an epinephrine pen afterward in case you experience any side effects.
Without visiting the doctor’s office, you can consult with an allergy specialist, get an at-home allergy test and discuss treating the source of your allergies naturally with sublingual immunotherapy.
This type of immunotherapy is administered orally and can be done so in the comfort of your own home.
Get tested for allergies and talk to a clinician about immunotherapy with Curex.
Your medical professional may schedule a video appointment to help you administer your first dose, but anaphylaxis is a less common symptom with sublingual immunotherapy than with subcutaneous immunotherapy.
An experienced Curex affiliated clinician can work with you every step of the way to customize your plan and treat your allergies once and for all.