What do you look forward to in the summer months? I bet it isn’t summer allergies! Whether you are planning to be the grill master or the ultimate host of the patio celebration, we have tips to help you prepare. Today, let’s discuss some common summer allergens you may encounter when enjoying the sun or attending summer celebrations.

During the summer months, many allergy sufferers are wary of grass pollen. They are the most common seasonal allergy triggers and are heaviest in May through August. Don’t forget to check local pollen counts to determine the density of pollen in the air on any given day. Read more about Grass Pollen Allergies and avoidance tip in our blog post here.

Skin Reactions

With many summer celebrations occurring outside or around the pool, sunscreen is important to discuss. We all know sunscreen is a crucial part of summer safety, but sometimes it can cause a reaction much worse than a sunburn. Individuals can have a contact allergy to the sunscreen itself and a rash will appear where it was applied. A reaction that appears after applying the sunblock and being exposed to the sun is also possible. Apply a quick and simple patch test before applying the product to your whole body. Decide on a small area like the wrist, apply the product, and wait at least 24 hours to make sure the skin does not react.

Also, while chlorine isn’t an allergen, it is an irritant and can cause problems with eye and nose itching. It can also cause breathing problems in people with asthma. If undesired symptoms are occurring while swimming, jump out of the pool. Take off your suit and wash the affected area with clean water and soap to remove traces of the remaining irritant. It is a good idea to have a rescue inhaler on hand, if prescribed to you, to calm any respiratory symptoms should they occur.

Stinging Insects 

Stinging insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets are most active during summer and early fall. Also fire ants are active all year round in many southern parts of the United States. People who know they are at risk for an allergic reaction to stinging insects should always carry two doses of auto injectable epinephrine. It is important to have the ability to access the injections within 60 seconds if necessary. Try to avoid the stings and bites before they occur by refraining from walking outdoors barefoot, especially in grassy areas. Skipping perfume or sweet-smelling body sprays or lotions is another good avoidance technique. Also, do not drink out of cans or bottles that have sat open and unattended. Sometimes insects can get trapped inside. Finally, when choosing the perfect outfit for the holiday weekend’s plans, leave any vivid, floral clothes in the closest.

Asthma Concerns

Fireworks, although beautiful and breathtaking, can create smoke and small particulate matter can trigger asthma. If you suffer from asthma, consider watching the fireworks from an indoor location. Similar to fireworks, smoke from grills, bonfires, firepits, or outdoor fireplaces can also trigger asthma. Try to avoid the direct smoke pathway, leave significant distance between yourself and the source of the smoke, Finally, other scented products utilized during outdoor gatherings can also contribute to air pollution and can trigger asthma. If hosting a party, contact your guests and ask if certain things like scented insect repelling candles or torch oil trigger negative responses for them.

Finally, what would a summer celebration be without all the tasty food and drinks? If food allergies are present, it may be easier to pack your own meals or snacks to have readily available. Preparing food yourself is always the safest option. If it isn’t feasible to do so, you still have options. It is helpful as a host to ask about any food allergies or dietary restrictions when inviting guests to the event. It is also very helpful to label what individual dishes or offerings are and include a high-level recipe or ingredient list. That way guests can privately identify safe selections off the menu and enjoy immersing themselves in the full experience without the worry of unknown exposure.

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. 

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