It’s summer time and the living is easy — unless of course, you have allergies. While allergies tend to creep up in spring, many people suffer from summer allergies as well due to things like ragweed or grass. In addition, summer air pollution can worsen your allergies. Plus insects like bees, wasps and fire ants might also cause allergies to act up when they sting or bite.
How do you know if you’re a victim of summer allergies? Symptoms typically include things like runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, fatigue, headaches and dark circles under the eyes. And if you’re struggling to tell whether it’s a cold or allergies, experts say there’s an easy way to tell the difference.
"Sometimes, it can be hard to tell them apart, especially if someone has not had problems with allergies previously," says Nancy Elder, MD, associate professor and director of research in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. "Allergies have more watery, runny nose with lots of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and can change based on physical location (for example, may get better if someone leaves the outdoors and goes into an air-conditioned, air-filtered house).”
Allergies can be miserable, but don’t let it wreck your summer. Here are the best ways to manage your summer allergies while still being able to have fun in the sun:
Use the right treatments - Nasal sprays, inhalants and oral over-the-counter antihistamines can do wonders for allergy symptoms. However, stay away from over-the-counter decongestants.
“They're designed for use with a cold, for seven days or less, while allergies last for weeks," says James Sublett, MD, FACAAI, a clinical professor and section chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and managing partner of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky. "They work by reducing the blood flow to your nose, letting you breathe better.” Speak with your healthcare provider about which remedy is right for you.
Be smart about being outdoors - That’s not to say you must sit inside the entire summer. But if you’ll be outside, say working in the garden or mowing the lawn, protect yourself with an allergy face mask or other shielding gear. Also, plan around your outdoor work schedule when taking your meds. For example, it’s a good idea to take them a half hour before so it can get into your system before pollen does.
“Keep an eye on the pollen counts, and try to plan more of your outdoor work for days when pollen counts are expected to be low and it's not so windy,” says Sublett.
Take your shoes off - After coming inside from being outdoors, it’s important not to walk around the house wearing shoes for the rest of the day. Your shoes can carry pollen into the house, and if you’re wearing shoes, you can unintentionally track pollen into every room. Some people with severe summer allergies might even consider changing their clothes after being outside for a long period of time. If you do this, throw them into the washer immediately.
Close your windows - The temptation to keep the windows open during the summer is certainly strong, but if you’re that type of person, you may actually be doing more harm than good. By keeping the windows open, pollen has a chance to enter and cover your entire home, only causing your allergies to worsen. Instead, opt for the air conditioner with an allergy filter, which can help you feel and breathe better. Just be sure to avoid vaporizers and humidifiers.
“The droplets are so big that they don't get into your nose, and increasing the humidity in your home can lead to problems with mold and dust mites,” explains Sublett.
Visit an allergist - Still sneezing and coughing? An allergist or ear, nose and throat specialist can help you figure out what exactly is causing your allergies by performing skin or testing for antibodies during blood tests. That way, they can prescribe the right prescription allergy medications that will work for you. They can also help you develop a customized plan that will help you feel better.
Allergies can make you miserable so having a plan is imperative to making the most out of your summer.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.