Summertime: The smells of barbeques and sunscreen, the sounds of ice cream trucks and kids in sprinklers, and the sneezing and wheezing of allergies and asthma! While most look forward to outdoor living, those with grass and weed pollen allergies can struggle to control symptoms this time of year. Pollen is hard to avoid in the summer, but limiting exposure in any amount can help with symptom control. Some ways to decrease exposure include:
Wearing sunglasses and hats help protects us from the sun’s rays, but can also be helpful in minimizing pollen exposure. Sunglasses protect your eyes from irritating pollen and dust and hats keep microscopic pollen out of the hair where it can stick.
Anytime you spend longer periods of time outdoors, it is helpful to shower, wash your hair and change clothing when coming inside. Our furry friends are another source of pollen exposure. When pets spend more time outdoors, there are more opportunities for exposure to pollen that can stick to paws and fur and be tracked indoors. Be sure to comb and bathe them more frequently to decrease the pollen collecting in their coats. Try to keep outdoor toys and tools in a mudroom, garage or shed so they are not covered in pollen. Avoid drying laundry outside to prevent trapping pollen in clothing.
If you are taking a road-trip this summer, be aware that different regions in the United States can have variability in predominate pollens, as well as length of pollen season. In Colorado, grasses generally pollinate in the late spring through the summer, while weeds will be present summer through the fall. It may be helpful to research the area you plan to visit and determine if there is a better time of the year to visit when pollen counts may be lower. When traveling by car, keep your windows closed and use air conditioning to minimize pollen exposure. In bigger cities, smog can worsen in the summer. Ozone is a common form of smog that can collect at ground level and forms as the strong summer sun mixes with chemicals from car exhaust. Ozone exposure can trigger both upper and lower airway symptoms.
Camping is a classic summertime activity that comes with additional challenges for allergy and asthma sufferers. Spending more time outdoors means greater exposure to allergens and likely increased symptoms. In addition, campfire smoke may flare asthma symptoms. It is important to continue to take daily allergy medications and controller inhalers for asthma and assure you have backup rescue medications including oral medications, like Benadryl, and albuterol inhalers. For those with food allergies, assure that epinephrine auto-injectors are packed and available and be extra cautious that your camp food is allergen free. When out hiking, stay on paths so you don’t accidentally brush up against poison ivy.
Being outside more also means more exposure to stinging insects. Measures that may be helpful to decrease exposure to stings include wearing long sleeves, pants and socks, as well as being cautious around areas where insects may congregate such as garbage cans for yellow jackets. Grilling and picnicking are other times when exposure is naturally higher, so extra caution should be taken.
Enjoying the sun and visiting pools are on the list of summertime activities for many. It is important to maintain good skin care. Excessive sun exposure is not recommended for healthy skin, but can be an even greater issue for those with skin conditions. Heat and sweating can cause eczema to flare and hives often worsen with an elevation of body temperature. In excess, pool chemicals can be irritating, however a visit one or two times a week to a chlorinated pool can be helpful in keeping unhealthy skin bacteria in check.
Whether your plans involve a road trip, camping, picnicking or swimming, be sure your medications are filled and up-to-date. Being aware of possible summertime challenges allows you to be proactive and stay healthy to enjoy the best of this beautiful season.