Summertime and the living is (supposed to be) easy. But there are some myths about summer allergies that may get in the way of your “easy life.” Let’s look at a few of them.
1. Outdoor allergies only occur in the spring and fall.
In fact, grass pollen can be in the air in early summer, which can lead to sneezing, an itchy, runny nose and eye watering and itching. Mold spores can be plentiful in the summer too, especially in areas with high humidity, and can cause severe allergy and asthma symptoms. In late summer, usually around the middle of August, one of the major triggers of outdoor nasal allergies starts. This is the beginning of ragweed season. If these summer allergies prevent you from going outdoors, over-the-counter antihistamines and intranasal steroid sprays can help. If you need more relief and are tired of using medications, you may be a candidate for allergy immunotherapy. This will desensitize you to what you are allergic to in the air. Check with your board-certified allergist about this option.
2. I have chlorine allergy. I can’t go swimming.
Chlorine is a common disinfectant used in swimming pools to make them safe. It can act as an irritant, which means it’s not a true allergy like one you might have to foods or insects. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, chlorine will not cause life-threatening anaphylaxis like a true allergy can. However, it can lead to skin rashes and cough, as well as eye and nasal irritation. Chlorine problems with swimming tend to be worse with indoor pools than outdoor ones due to inadequate ventilation of its vapors, so usually it’s less of an issue during the summer season. Talk to your allergist if you have a problem swimming outside, which may be related to chlorine.
3. I’m allergic to mosquitoes. I need to stay indoors.
Mosquitoes are a major problem in the summertime, but they rarely cause allergic reactions like bees, wasps and hornets do. They cause itching and swelling in the areas where you’re bitten, but they almost never lead to hives all over the body or life-threatening anaphylaxis. The reaction from a mosquito bite results from a chemical in the insect’s saliva that is injected into your skin, preventing your blood from clotting prior to sucking it. (Gross, right?)
Of course, mosquitoes can carry diseases, such as the Zika virus and West Nile encephalitis, so you should use mosquito repellent containing DEET to prevent bites when outdoors. Be sure to read the label for the correct way to apply it to your skin. Wearing clothing that covers most of your skin can be helpful, too. If you do get mosquito bites, you can take an OTC antihistamine and apply an OTC hydrocortisone cream to help with the itching.
4. Every time a look up at the sun, I sneeze. I must be allergic to sunlight.
If you have bursts of sneezing when you move to an area with bright light, you have a photic sneeze reflex. It’s not the bright light by itself that leads to sneezing, but the change in light intensity that causes the reflex. This change triggers nerves in the eye that go to the brain, which then stimulates other nerves that generate the sneezing. This is a very common condition that’s thought to affect up to 35% of the population and tends to run in families. It’s not harmful, and there is no medication to treat the reflex. You can help prevent these bursts of sneezing when you go outside into the bright sunlight by wearing sunglasses and/or a hat to shield your eyes.
5. Some fresh fruits and vegetables make my mouth itch. Must be a food allergy.
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 pollen food allergy syndrome, also known as oral allergy syndrome. PFAS 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 or swelling of the lips, mouth or tongue. Because the symptoms often go away 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.
[READ: When to See an Allergist.]
Summer should be about sun and fun. Debunking some of the most common myths about summer allergies means more enjoyment for you. Your allergist can help you take control of your allergies and asthma so you can live the life you want.
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