You have gone most of the year without allergies, now summer is here and you are experiencing symptoms. You ask yourself “Are summer allergies a thing?” Absolutely Summer allergies are a thing! Depending on where you live, summer brings enjoyable warmth which makes plants bloom and creates an inviting environment for insects. Additionally, foods that you consume in the summer can cause your summer allergy symptoms as well. Let’s deep dive into why summer allergies are a thing, and what you can do about them.
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Table of Contents
What Are Summer Allergies?
Before we jump into the fascinating world of summer allergies, we need to get the basics down. Seasonal allergies, they’re like these crazy reactions our immune system has to stuff that’s totally harmless for most people. We’re talking about allergens, these sneaky substances like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and even certain foods.
When someone with allergies encounters one of these troublemakers, their immune system goes into overdrive, thinking it’s a full-on invasion!
To defend the body, the immune system unleashes its secret weapons, like histamine. It’s like the boss sending out the troops! But here’s the kicker: this immune response triggers all sorts of unpleasant allergy symptoms.
What Causes Summer Allergies?
Summer allergies can be caused by a multitude of triggers. The most common summer allergy triggers are grasses & weeds, molds, insect bites, and stings, and sometimes the consumption of certain fruits and vegetables. During summer, you may notice allergies at the beach, while outside having a picnic, or constantly during all summer months.
Grass and Weed Pollen
Grass and weed pollen spreads by hitching a ride with the wind. Pollen is small in size and can easily attach to your clothing, skin, and hair. These tiny allergy-causing particles fit easily through window screens and end up inside your home which can cause even more issues for you or a loved one.
Some folks (like me) have a less common allergy to grass called contact dermatitis, this means when it touches your skin, you develop a reaction, typically causing hives (urticaria).
Types of Grasses and Weeds That Cause Allergies
There is a multitude of grasses and weeds that you may be allergic to. Here are the types of grasses and weeds an allergist may test for:
- Kentucky Blue
- Sweet Vernal
- English Plantain
- Lamb’s Quarters
- Russian Thistle
- Sheep Sorrel
Mold and Fungi Spore Allergies in Summer
With mold and fungi, my first thought is “How could my mold allergy be worse in summer when it’s so hot out?” Allergy Asthma Foundation of America states that mold and fungi “seeds” also known as spores travel in dry windy air or warm humid environments.
Summer tends to be dry and windy, or warm and humid… great for mold and fungi, bad for allergy sufferers.
Grasses, Weeds, and Molds, Summer Allergy Symptoms
Summer allergies can manifest in various ways, and the symptoms may vary from person to person. Here are some common symptoms associated with summer allergies:
- Hay fever
- Itchy/watery eyes
- Post-nasal drip
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Insect Stings and Bites
If you are allergic to insect stings or bites, summertime is the most likely season for your insect allergy to flare up. Summertime is when a lot of insects are active, but so are humans…Our worlds end up colliding while we both try and enjoy the weather.
Insects That Cause Allergic Reactions
There are many bugs that are known to cause allergic reactions from their bites, feces, stings, or presence. Here are the most common insects that cause allergic reactions:
- Black flies
- Chiggers (also known as harvest mites or red bugs)
- Fire ants
- Sandflies (also known as sand gnats or no-see-ums)
Insect Bites & Stings Reactions
Not everyone reacts to insect bites, but those who do have reactions experience mild to severe symptoms. There are an array of bug bite and sting symptoms, and the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology summarizes these symptoms as follows.
Insect Bite & Sting Symptoms
- Localized swelling, welt, pain, and/or blister
- Itchy hives
- Abdominal cramping,
- Intense nausea or diarrhea
- Tightness in the chest and difficulty in breathing
- Hoarse voice
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
Summertime Fruit & Vegetable Allergy Triggers
There are these proteins hanging out in specific fruits, veggies, and nuts, and they happen to be quite similar to the proteins found in pollen floating around in the air. Now, when someone with pollen allergies munches on these “trigger foods”, their immune system gets a bit confused and starts thinking that the proteins in the food are just like the pollen proteins. And bam! Allergic reaction time!
Consuming certain fruits and veggies when you suffer from seasonal allergies can put you at an elevated risk of triggering Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) during the summer months.
Potential Summer/Late Summer OAS Food Triggers
Certain summer or late summer fruits and vegetables are more likely to trigger allergy-related symptoms. This is a list of the most common pollen cross-reacting foods:
- White Potatoes
It’s important to note that cooking or heating the trigger foods can often denature the proteins responsible for the cross-reactivity. This means that some individuals may tolerate the foods when they are cooked or processed.
If you suspect you have oral allergy syndrome, it is advisable to consult an allergist for proper diagnosis and guidance. They can perform specific allergy tests to identify your triggers and provide personalized advice on managing your condition.
Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) Symptoms
The main concern with fruit and vegetables as they relate to summer allergy symptoms is the onset of Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). The most common symptoms of OAS are itching and/or swelling of the mouth, throat, tongue, or lips, and possibly sneezing/nasal congestion.
How common is Oral Allergy Syndrome?
The AAAAI estimates that 7.8% of adults in the United States suffer from hay fever, and Stanford Healthcare estimates that up to 70% of individuals with pollen allergies experience OAS symptoms.
There are currently about 209 million adults in the U.S., leading us to 11.4 million adults affected by OAS symptoms. As you can see OAS is very common in individuals with pollen allergies, let’s go over the symptoms of OAS.
How Long Do Allergies Last in the Summer?
The summer season is typically defined as running from 1 June through 31 August. Unfortunately, there is no clear start and stop day for summertime allergies.
For individuals that live south of the equator (southern hemisphere), the summer allergy season spans from November through March.
The summer allergy season varies by location and weather patterns. Depending on where you live, summer allergies may start early as May and not end until October.
How to Reduce Summer Allergies
While summer allergies can be bothersome, there are several measures you can take to minimize their impact and enjoy the season to the fullest. Here are some strategies for coping with summer allergies.
Monitor pollen levels
Stay informed about daily pollen forecasts in your area. On high pollen days, try to limit your outdoor activities, especially during peak pollen times like early morning and late afternoon.
Keep windows closed
To reduce exposure to outdoor allergens, keep windows closed and rely on air conditioning to keep your home cool and comfortable. If you do not have A/C monitor the pollen levels and only open the windows during non-peak hours.
Make your home allergy-friendly
To make your home allergy friendly, you need to take measures that limit the amount of allergens in the home. Consider these techniques:
- Change out of your outside clothes
- Dust regularly
- Shower to remove allergens
- Take off your shoes inside the home
- Use a HEPA Air Purifier
Take precautions when outdoors
If you need to spend time outside, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen, and consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat to minimize exposure to allergens. Additionally, shower and change your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove any lingering pollen.
Over-the-counter antihistamines can help alleviate common allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose. They work by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical released during an allergic reaction.
Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and relieve symptoms such as congestion and sneezing. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
Over-the-counter eye drops can provide temporary relief from itchy and watery eyes caused by allergies. Look for products specifically formulated for allergy relief and contain an antihistamine.
Summer allergies are real and cause us lots of miserable days throughout the year. Knowing what causes summer allergies, as well as the symptoms you may experience will assist you in deciding the best treatment and prevention options available to you.
Next up, check out Summer Allergy Treatment & Prevention Options, to get back to enjoying your summer sooner!