Summertime means outdoor fun at weddings, graduations, festivals and picnics. But uninvited guests ranging from stinging insects to grass pollen can ruin the fun for the millions of Americans with allergies and asthma.
Allergies and asthma can lead to sneezing, wheezing and itchy misery - and sometimes more serious reactions - turning a joyous occasion into agony.
"By planning ahead, people with allergies can still enjoy outdoor events," says Dr. Myron Zitt, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
ACAAI and its allergist members suggest following a few simple tips to make summer soirees more enjoyable:
* Treat before you go. Take allergy medication before walking out the door. If you wait until symptoms kick in, the medication won't be nearly as effective.
* Go undercover. Big, wrap-around sunglasses help keep pollen from getting into your eyes.
* Avoid bees. If you're allergic to bees or other stinging insects, avoidance is your best bet. Keep your distance from uncovered food, be cautious of open soft drink cans and resist wearing bright clothing or perfume, all of which attract bees. If someone near you gets stung, move away - some bees give off a chemical after they sting that can attract other stinging insects.
* Be cautious at the food table. Avoid foods in which nuts, dairy and other common allergens can be lurking, such as mixed salads, barbecue sauces and salad dressings. If grilling is involved, have your portion cooked on aluminum foil to avoid cross-contamination with other foods.
* Stick to the middle. Poison ivy can lurk in bushes and other foliage, so stay in open areas where you're less likely to brush up against it.
* Pay attention to ozone alerts. High temperatures mixed with pollution can pose a problem for people with asthma. Carry a quick relief inhaler.
Visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org for more information about allergies and to find an allergist near you. Allergists have expertise to select the most effective treatment options and also can determine if you should consider allergy shots (immunotherapy) which are effective for seasonal and stinging insect allergies. The treatment involves periodic injections with tiny amounts of an allergen so that your reactions become milder or disappear completely, curing your allergy. Allergy shots also can help prevent the development of asthma.