Summer Allergy-Induced Asthma: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment
For many people, summer season is the most favorite time of the year, but not for those who suffer from summer allergy-induced asthma. While the longest vacations of the year begin, and both children and adults spend more and more time outside, people with summer allergies have to cope with sneezing, coughing, wheezing and other annoying symptoms once again.
Experts distinguish two types of allergy-induced asthma: year-round and seasonal. Asthma that is present during the whole year is likely to be triggered by indoor allergens found in your daily living environment. On the other hand, if the symptoms occur only during certain seasons, they are rather caused by seasonal, outdoor allergens. In addition, it is also possible to have allergy and asthma symptoms all the year round but experience significant worsening during the summertime allergy season.
What Are the Symptoms of Summer Allergy-Induced Asthma?
The symptoms most commonly experienced by people with summer allergies and asthma include: sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, red, itchy and watery eyes, itchiness of the nose, mouth and throat, wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, and breathing problems.
Other symptoms and signs pointing out to allergy-induced asthma include the allergic salute (that develops when you rub your nose upward because of itching), and allergic shiners (the dark circles under the eyes resulting from nasal congestion).
The symptoms mentioned above are the typical symptoms of asthma and allergies that may develop at any time of the year, regardless of the season. However, they may get worse in the summer, if you are allergic to summer allergens.
What Are the Most Common Summer Allergens?
Depending on the geographical location and climate, the summer season starts at different times in different parts of the world. One of the signs indicating the beginning of summer are grasses turning green and starting to grow. For people affected by summer allergy-induced asthma, this also means the beginning of allergy season.
Speaking about summer allergens, grass pollen is among the most common triggers. Pollen is a fine powdery substance produced by trees, flowers, grasses and weeds for the fertilization purposes. Pollen grains that make up this powder are microscopic egg-shaped bodies containing the male reproductive cell of a plant. The size of one pollen grain is even smaller in diameter than a human hair.
There are various types of grasses whose pollen can trigger the symptoms of allergy and asthma. The most common of them include: Timothy grass, Bermuda grass, orchard grass, blue grass, red top grass, and sweet vernal grass. If any of these grasses are present in the flora of your local area, and you are diagnosed with an allergy to their pollen, you will most likely experience your allergy and asthma symptoms.
Apart from grass pollen, another common summer allergen is pollen produced by weeds. In the Unites States, weed pollens usually appear and start causing problems around mid-August. The peak of weed pollen allergies is during late summer and fall. Common allergy-causing weeds include: ragweed, Russian thistle, pigweed, cockle weeds, sagebrush, and tumbleweed.
Normally, pollen allergies are caused by airborne pollen grains transported over long distances by the wind. Allergies to plants that pollinated by insects (e.g. bees) are very rare. On dry, windy days, pollen counts in the air tend to be the highest the highest. Rainy weather is the best type of weather for people with pollen allergies, as the rain washes the pollen away providing significant relief.
What If Your Symptoms Get Worse in the Summer?
If your asthma and allergy symptoms become worse, as the summer season begins, it is likely to be your body’s reaction to a certain summer allergen. To determine the cause of your symptoms, you can make an appointment with an allergist-immunologist – a doctor who specializes in allergic disorders. The doctor may suggest that you perform special allergy testing, and based on the test results, as well as your medical history, he will make a final diagnosis.
In case you are diagnosed with a summer allergy-induced asthma, there are many treatment methods that can help you to keep your symptoms at minimum. Below, you will find some recommendations concerning allergy medications and preventive actions you can take to manage your allergy better.
How Can You Prevent the Symptoms of Summer Allergy and Asthma?
There are many ways to control your allergy and asthma during the summer season. To start with, experts recommend that you pay attention to pollen counts in your area. For example, there are different online sources you can use to obtain all the necessary information about the daily pollen counts.
You are better off staying indoors on warm, dry and windy days when the pollen counts are the highest. If you need to leave your house on these days anyways, it’s better to do it in the evening, since pollen counts are higher during early morning and midday.
Whenever you are indoors or in the car, make sure that the windows are closed, and the air conditioning is on. Turning on the air conditioning system, especially if it’s equipped with a HEPA filter, will prevent pollen from getting into your house or car through the windows.
Since pollen grains tend to accumulate in dust, you can minimize the pollen levels indoors by vacuuming and dusting all the flat surfaces in your house regularly, at least one a week. To protect your airways when cleaning, you can wear a mask.
Pollen can also collect on clothes that are hung outside to dry. If you have a pollen allergy, don’t to hang your wet clothes outdoors. Instead, use a special clothes dryer.
If you have to spend some time outdoors when the pollen levels are high, make sure to wash all the pollen off when you get back home. Taking a hot shower, washing your hair and changing your clothes will help to get rid of pollen and prevent the development of the symptoms.
Which Allergy Treatments Can Help to Control Summer Allergies and Asthma?
To control the symptoms of summer allergies and asthma, you can use various allergy medications available on the market. Thus, if you have asthma, you will need to be taking your normal steroid inhaler daily to prevent the symptoms from arising, and use the rescue inhaler, in case the symptoms occur. Contact your doctor, if you tend to use your rescue inhaler twice a week or more.
When it comes to summer allergies, the symptoms can be treated by medications like oral antihistamines, nasal decongestant or steroid sprays, eyedrops, as well as saline rinse.
Antihistamines are one of the most commonly used allergy medications. They help to prevent the symptoms by affecting the underlying allergic response in the first place. Some older-generation antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Chlortrimeton (chlorpheniramine) have shown to cause drowsiness. However, these medications are still effective against allergy symptoms, and they are generally cheaper than the newer antihistamines. The newer ones include brands like Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are effective and non-sedating, but their price is higher. Both types of antihistamines are available over the counter. You can also find some medications combining antihistamines with a decongestant, which helps to treat nasal congestion.
Nasal decongestant sprays are a good short-term relief for nasal congestion. However, you cannot use these sprays throughout the whole allergy season, as this can make your symptoms even worse.
Nasal steroid sprays (or nasal cromolyn sodium), such as Flonase, are one of the most effective and safest allergy medications. These sprays are safer than decongestants sprays because they act only where it’s needed. Nasal steroids sprays are widely available over the counter.
If you’re affected by eye allergies, you can treat the symptoms using various eyedrops. Mild symptoms can be controlled by gentle eyedrops imitating natural tears. For more severe symptoms, there are a number of over-the-counter antihistamine eyedrops available, such as Alaway or Zaditor. Be careful with drops like Visine Allergy, since those can lead to even more symptoms if overused. If over-the-counter drops don’t seem to work, your doctor may recommend you prescription eyedrops that might be more effective.
Saline nasal rinse (or irrigation) is a natural approach to the treatment of nasal symptoms, which is both safe and effective. The procedure involves washing out tiny pollen grains and other allergens, as well as mucus from the nasal passages by flushing them with a saline water solution. These solutions can be found in most drugstores, or you can prepare your own salt water using instructions from the reliable online sources.
The Bottom Line
In some people, allergy and asthma symptoms tend to get worse during the summer season. However, it doesn’t mean that you just have to suffer and wait until the summer is over. There are various treatments available today that can help to control your allergies and improve your quality of life. Talk to your doctor about your treatment plan and make sure to start taking your allergy meds before the symptoms occur. Sometimes, it may take up to two weeks for the medications to reach their full effectiveness.
If you have a summer allergy and year-round asthma, your asthma symptoms may worsen during the summer season. Therefore, it is especially important to start the treatment early enough to keep the allergy symptoms at bay when the summer begins.