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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – It’s the Fourth of July – BOOM! – that time of year when many people are outside – SWISSHHH! – enjoying fireworks, picnics, swimming and outdoor activities – POPOPOPOP! To make sure everyone enjoys the red, white and blue holiday to the fullest, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) offers some star-spangled tips.
“Summer is filled with fun festivities, but allergy and asthma sufferers need to be aware of the triggers which can sometimes ruin their good time,” said allergist Michael Foggs, MD, ACAAI past president. “Working with an allergist who can arm you with knowledge about possible risks, and how to handle them, means getting back to all the outdoor activities, family reunions, camping and swimming that people love about summer.”
Fireworks, Campfires and Asthma Don’t Mix
Fireworks and campfires are a staple of the 4th of July, but smoke can cause asthma symptoms to flare. Allergists recommend keeping your distance from campfires – and if you have to be near one, sit upwind if possible. If you can’t resist the fireworks, consider wearing a NIOSH N95 rated filter mask to keep smoke out of your lungs, and always carry your reliever inhaler.
Summer’s Bounty of Produce Can Sometimes Cause Itching and Swelling
If you suffer from hay fever and you’ve ever experienced an itchy mouth, scratchy throat or swelling of the lips or mouth after eating certain raw fruits or vegetables, you may have oral allergy syndrome. Oral allergy syndrome is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables, or some tree nuts. An allergist can help you determine if your reaction to certain foods has to do with oral allergy syndrome, and possibly get you eating your favorite fruits and veggies again.
Changes in Weather Can Heat Up or Stifle Fun
July is when things start to really heat up, but whether it is stifling humidity or a refreshing cool breeze, sudden changes in the weather can trigger an asthma attack. Allergists are experts in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, and can develop a plan to keep symptoms in check, no matter the season or the temperature. Keeping an eye on the weather and knowing how changes might affect your asthma will go a long way towards helping you enjoy the summer season. Consider indoor activities and exercise on hot, high pollen and humid days and watch out for “ozone alert” days, when your lungs need to work even harder. Replace your HVAC filter with a high-efficiency (MERV 11 or higher) filter and change every three months. Remember that everyone needs to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated during hot weather periods.
If You Don’t Bother It, It Won’t (Ouch!) Bother You
No one wants to get stung by an insect, but for some people it can be very serious because they are at risk of suffering life-threatening reactions to insect venom. If you experience facial swelling, difficulty breathing or another unusual reaction after insect stings, call 911 and receive immediate emergency care. Follow up with an allergist, who will prescribe epinephrine and possibly allergy shots that can save your life.
Cannonball! Everyone into the Pool!
While some people are convinced they are allergic to chlorine, the truth is that chlorine is not an allergen. However, the smell of chlorine is an irritant for some, causing allergy-like eye and nose itching, and discomfort. Some people with asthma also experience difficulties when coming in contact with chlorine. Skin sensitivity to chlorine is often treated by washing the affected area with clean water to remove traces of the remaining irritant. In some cases a corticosteroid cream may be prescribed. Hives can be treated with an antihistamine.
If you have symptoms keeping you from summer fun, make an appointment with an allergist for proper testing. Allergy testing can be done as skin tests or as blood tests, with skin test results usually appearing in about 20 minutes. For more information about seasonal allergies, and to locate an allergist in your area, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.
July 1, 2014