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
Trees are usually done with their pollen-fest by late spring. That leaves grasses and weeds to trigger summer allergies.
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 temperatures 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:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Dark circles under your eyes
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
- Eye drops
- Nasal irrigation
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 immediately. 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.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Pollen Q&A," “Travel Safe This Summer – Allergy and Asthma Free," “Tips to Remember: Outdoor Allergens," “The Sting of Summer," “Allergic Rhinitis."
- American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Health Tips for Spring Allergies."
- American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery: “Allergies and Hay Fever."
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Air Pollution."
- Environmental Protection Agency: “Health Effects of Ozone in Patients with Asthma."
- Ewan, P. British Medical Journal, May 1998.
- Golden, D. New England Journal of Medicine, Aug. 12, 2004.
- HealthDay News: “Nasal Irrigation Can Help Fight Spring Allergies."
- Millstein, J. Archives of Environmental Health, October 2004.
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: “Airborne Allergens."
- News release, FDA.