Looking forward to the end of seasonal allergies? If you think your itchy eyes and a runny nose will clear up once beach weather arrives, think again: Summer may not bring relief from symptoms for the 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies and asthma. “The pollen season actually runs into early summer and peaks around Memorial Day,” says James L. Sublett, M.D., chair of the Indoor Environments Committee for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Plus, most people tend to spend more time outdoors once the weather warms up, and that means greater exposure to irritants such as pollen, mold, and dust.” Whether you like to spend your days on the golf course or doing yard work, avoiding seasonal allergies is as simple as figuring out your triggers—and the smartest strategies for avoiding them.
Trigger #1: Running outside. Before you do your afternoon training run, keep in mind that hot, humid days trap pollutants such as pollen or diesel exhaust closer to the ground where you breathe. To avoid an allergy or asthma attack that’s kicked off by air pollution, monitor the air quality in your area on any given day by logging onto the government website airnow.gov. Then use the treadmill indoors when pollution levels reach “unhealthy.”
Trigger #2: Playing ball. The baseball field may be harbor hidden allergy triggers. “Mold is a common allergy culprit, and though many people think of mold as only an indoor problem, dust and dirt from sports fields may actually contain a high level of spores,” says Sublett. While that doesn’t mean you should skip out on baseball games entirely, you may want to visit an allergist who can find the best medications to keep an attack from happening in the first place. To find an allergist near you, visit allergyandasthmarelief.org.
Trigger #3: Going for a swim. Whether you’re diving into a lake to train for a triathlon or hitting up the beach to surf, use caution when entering cold water. “Dramatic changes in temperature, such as jumping into a cold lake on a hot day, can trigger asthma,” says Sublett. Rather than abruptly diving in, gradually ease in to allow your lungs time to adjust. Another thing to note: That strong chlorine smell from pools actually comes from chlorine breaking down bacteria and can be also be a respiratory irritant that sets off asthma.
Trigger #4: Firing up the grill. Smoke (and smoking) is a major asthma trigger. What’s more, research shows that exposure to smoke causes changes to your body’s immune cells that also make you react more strongly to allergens. While you already know to steer clear of butts, keep in mind that smoke from cookouts or bonfires also contains small particles that can irritate your eyes and nose, and trigger asthma flare-ups. Try to stay downwind when firing up the grill or building a fire.
Trigger #5: Eating fruit that triggers allergies. Summer’s abundance of seasonal produce makes it easier to meet your daily requirements of fruits and vegetables, but certain fruits may also also cause your allergies to flare up. Have your lips ever tingled or your throat gotten scratchy after sinking your teeth into a juicy piece of fruit? People with strong grass or ragweed allergies may suffer from oral allergy syndrome, which happens when your body’s immune system mistakes similar proteins in certain fruits and vegetables with the allergy-causing grass, tree or weed pollens. Common culprits include apples, peaches, pears and melons.