The sun is shining, the air is warm, and it's a perfect day to have a summer picnic. But if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may find that your outdoor plans quickly lead to your worst symptoms.

Summer Allergy Triggers

Summer allergens can easily put a damper on your favorite summer activities. Before you head outside, arm yourself with awareness of these 6 common summer allergy triggers:

  1. Pollen: The pollen in your yard, park, or other outdoor spaces can make you itch and sneeze. It can also get trapped on your clothing and in your hair. Early in the season, grass pollen is one of the biggest summer allergens, while weed pollen becomes more prevalent as the summer lengthens. Be sure to check the pollen count every morning and try to plan your activities for times when it's lower (often afternoons and evenings). Plan to take a shower and change your clothes as soon as you get home to remove any allergens lingering there.
  2. Outdoor Mold: Mold spores are a common summer allergen, and the problem can worsen later in the summer when the humidity intensifies. To minimize mold-related allergy symptoms, check mold counts regularly. If you like to garden, wear a face mask to avoid breathing in the troublesome spores. If indoor mold is also a problem, identify any areas of dampness in your home and fix pesky leaks that may be causing the problem. Running a dehumidifier can also help prevent mold from forming.
  3. Fruit and Vegetables: A juicy slice of watermelon can be the perfect end to a summer meal. But if you're prone to a reaction called oral allergy syndrome, eating this or other fruits and vegetables can cause itching of your throat, mouth, and lips. This isn't an actual allergic reaction to the food itself but rather, it occurs when your body reacts to the fruit protein, which is similar to certain pollens. The best way to avoid the problem is to cook the food, since the process of heating the item changes the protein structure and heads off the reaction entirely. Try halved peaches cooked on the grill!
  4. Insects: No one likes stinging insects. But bugs like bumblebees, hornets, wasps, and fire ants can be more than a nuisance if your immune system is overly sensitive to their venom. The best way to protect yourself from this summer allergen is to keep outdoor eating to a minimum, since food and sugary drinks serve as a magnet to insects. If you do picnic, keep plates and cups covered and put away food as soon as you finish. Also, situate yourself far away from the garbage can, where insects typically gather, and avoid going barefoot so you don't step on a stinging insect. If you do get stung, remember that it's typical to experience redness, swelling, and itching in the area. More serious symptoms that can indicate an allergic reaction include hives, swollen tongue and/or throat, trouble breathing, dizziness, cramps, and upset stomach. If you're in danger of a life threatening anaphylactic attack, always carry an Epi-pen so you'll be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
  5. Sunscreen: You diligently apply sunscreen before heading outside. While this does help protect you from skin cancer, did you know that some of the chemicals and fragrances that your sunscreen contains may lead to an allergic reaction? If you find yourself experiencing a rash or itching and believe that sunscreen is to blame, it's worth a trip to your allergist to determine which ingredient is causing the problem. Often switching to a milder option (such as a sunscreen with a powdered form of sun-blocking agents) will head off your symptoms and still offer protection from the sun's harmful rays.
  6. Chlorine: If a dip in the pool causes you to break out in an itchy rash, you might think you have a chlorine allergy. In fact, experts say it's probably not an immune system reaction but more likely a minor skin sensitivity or rash caused by the chemicals it contains. For people with allergies and asthma, chlorine may also irritate their sensitive respiratory track. When in doubt, it's a good idea to see your doctor and let a professional get to the root of your problem. The good news is that once you identify the cause, most issues that result from chlorine can be easily managed.


ABCNews.go. "Top 5 Summer Allergy Triggers." Web. 17 June 2012.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI). "Stinging Insect Allergies: Tips to Remember." N.d. Web. 20 June 2012.

"American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). "Avoiding Summer Allergy and Asthma Triggers." N.d. Web. 17 June 2012.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). "Chlorine Allergy: Reality or Myth?" N.d. Web. 20 June 2012.

Medline Plus. "Health Topics: 5 Surprising Summer Allergies." US National Library of Medicine. A Service of the US Institutes of Health. 23 May 2012. Web. 17 June 2012. "Prevention News: The Snack That Makes Your Allergies Worse." April 2012. Web. 17 June 2012.