Many of us struggle with allergies but they often peak in spring and fall leaving summer a nice time of relief. So if your nose is running and you’re sneezing like crazy in the middle of summer, what gives?
Well, the biggest summer allergy trigger is pollen. When pollen finds its way into the noses of sensitive airways, it triggers the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other allergy symptoms. The higher the pollen counts, the worse you may feel.
Trees are usually done pollinating by late spring, so if the leafy giants are your primary triggers then you are feeling pretty good at mid-summer. But if you are allergic to grasses and weeds, you may be feeling the full effect.
The Worst Summer Allergy Plants
- Russian Thistle
- Bermuda Grasses
- Blue grasses
- Red Top
- Sweet Vernal
- Timothy Hay
One thing to be aware of, especially in Utah, is that a potent and and common summer allergy trigger is on its way — ragweed, which usually arrives in August. Ragweed can travel for hundreds of miles in the wind. Even if it doesn’t grow where you live, it can make you feel bad if you’re allergic to it.
Summer air pollution can make allergy symptoms worse. One of the most common pollutants is ozone, which is created in the atmosphere by a combination of sunlight, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbons from burning fuel. The stronger sunlight and calmer winds during summer can create clouds of ozone around some cities, like Salt Lake City and Logan during inversions.
Inside, molds love damp areas, including the basement and bathrooms. Their spores get into the air and can cause problems for allergy sufferers.
Dust mites — microscopic insects — peak during summer. They thrive in warm, humid temperatures (luckily we rarely experience high humidity in Utah) and nest in beds, fabric, and carpets. Their residue can get into the air, triggering sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses.
Tips to Minimize the Effects without Medication
- Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is high.
- Keep your doors and windows closed whenever possible to keep allergens out. Use an air purifier.
- Clean air filters in your home often. Clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen can collect.
- Wash bedding and rugs in hot water to eliminate dust mites and other allergens.
- Wash your hair, shower, and change clothing after going outside to wash away pollen.
- Vacuum often. Wear a mask, because vacuuming 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% to prevent the growth of dust mites.
How to Treat Summer Allergies without Seeing a Doctor
Over-the-counter allergy treatments include:
- Nasal spray decongestants (They shouldn’t be used more than three days.)
- Corticosteroid nasal spray (Nasacort)
- Cromolyn sodium nasal spray
- Eye drops
- Nasal irrigation like a Neti Pot
When You Should See a Doctor
If over-the-counter remedies don’t help, see a specialist such as one of the physicians at the ENT Center of Utah. Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and your allergy history. He may suggest allergy treatments. In some cases, he may refer you to an allergy specialist who may do a skin test (often called a scratch test), which exposes the skin of your arm or back to a tiny sample of allergen. If you’re allergic to a substance, a small red bump will form. A blood test can also diagnose allergies.
The doctor may recommend one of these prescription medications:
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) such as Singulair
- Atrovent (ipratropium bromide) nasal spray
- Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or oral tablets or drops