Spring’s over, but you’re still stopped up, sniffly, and sneezing.
Welcome to summer allergy season. It keeps going long after April’s showers and May’s flowers are gone.
Many of the same triggers are to blame. Once you know what they are, you can take steps to get treated.
Pollen Is the Biggest Culprit
The type of plant to blame varies by location. Those most likely to make you sneeze or sniffle include:
- Russian thistle
- Blue grasses
- Red top
- Sweet vernal
Ragweed is one of the most common summer allergy triggers. It can travel for hundreds of miles on the wind. So even if it doesn’t grow where you live, it can make you feel bad if you’re allergic to it.
Smog: It’s Worst This Time of Year
Summer air pollution can make your symptoms worse. One of the most common is ozone at the ground level. It’s created in the atmosphere from a mix of sunlight and chemicals from car exhaust. Summer’s strong sunlight and calm winds create clouds of ozone around some cities.
Critters That Sting Are More Active
Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, fire ants, and other insects can cause allergic reactions when they sting. If you have a severe allergy, a run-in with one of them could lead to a life-threatening situation.
Insect bites usually cause mild symptoms, like itching and swelling around the area. Sometimes they lead to a severe allergic reaction, though. Your throat feels like it’s swelling shut, and your tongue might swell. You could feel dizzy, nauseated, or go into shock. This is an emergency, and you'll need to get medical help right away.
Tiny Things Grow in Warm Air
Molds love damp areas, including the basement and bathrooms. Their spores get into the air and set off an allergic reaction.
Microscopic insects called dust mites peak during summer. They thrive in warm, humid places and nest in beds, fabric, and carpets. Their residue can get into the air and set off sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses.
What Are Summer Allergy Symptoms?
They’re pretty much the same as those that troubled you in the spring:
How Are They Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and allergy history. They may suggest treatments.
Or they might refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating allergies for a skin test. This allergist will expose a small spot on your arm or back to a tiny sample of allergen. If you react, a small red bump will form. A blood test can also diagnose allergies.
How Are Allergies Treated?
Over-the-counter medications include:
- Nasal spray decongestants – don’t use them for more than 3 days
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Nasal irrigation
- Bioelectronic sinus device
If over-the-counter remedies don’t help, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication:
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs)
- Ipratropium bromide nasal spray (Atrovent)
- Immunotherapy – you’ll get tiny doses of allergens in the form of shots, tablets, or drops.
To treat insect stings or bites:
- For a severe allergic reaction, use an epinephrine shot if you have it, and call 911 right away. Always carry two doses with you if you're at risk for a severe allergic reaction.
- For mild reactions, apply ice to the bite area to ease the swelling. If you got stung, remove the stinger.
- Try a pain reliever, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Use a topical cream like hydrocortisone to ease pain and itching. Calamine creams also help.
- Use oral antihistamines for itching.
How to Make Allergy Season Easier
Take some simple steps to avoid your triggers.
- Stay inside when the pollen count and smog levels are high.
- Keep your doors and windows closed. Run your air conditioner to keep allergens out. Use an air purifier.
- Clean air filters in your home often. Also clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen collects.
- Wash bedding and rugs in hot water to get rid of dust mites and other allergens.
- Wash your hair, shower, and change your clothes after you go outside.
- Vacuum often and wear a mask. The process can kick up pollen, mold, and dust trapped in your carpet. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Wear a mask when you mow your lawn to avoid grass pollen.
- Keep the humidity in your house between 30% and 50% so dust mites won’t thrive.
Weather Changes and Allergies
While summer allergies are common, other seasons have their allergies, too. Weather – whether it’s hot, cold, dry, or wet – is a common allergy trigger.
The connection between your symptoms and the weather depends on what you’re allergic to. Here are a few common triggers:
- Dry, windy days. Wind blows pollen into the air, causing hay fever. If you have pollen allergies, shut the windows and stay indoors on windy days.
- Rainy or humid days. Moisture makes mold grow, both indoors and out. Dust mites also thrive in humid air. But if you're allergic to pollen, humid or damp days are good. The moisture weighs down the pollen, keeping it on the ground.
- Cold air. Many people with allergic asthma find that cold air is a problem, especially when they exercise outside. It can trigger a coughing fit.
- Heat. Air pollution is worst on hot summer days. Ozone and smog can be a serious trigger for people with allergic asthma.
Every season – not just summer – has its own allergy problems.
Spring. In cooler states, plants start to release pollens in February or March. Tree pollens are also a common spring allergy cause.
Fall. Ragweed season usually ends with the first frost in October. In colder states, mold tends to be worst in the fall.
Winter. Indoor allergens – like pet dander and dust mites – can become more of a problem in winter. Why? When it's cold out, you spend more time indoors.