Summer’s here and the time might be right for dancing in
the streets, but be sure you’re wearing sunscreen and
you’ve taken your antihistamine. The long and lovely
days of summer can bring allergies, skin damage and
other ailments. This summer don’t let them rule your
world. Take some tips from our experts.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies,
also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis, they can
make your life miserable, interfering with outdoor
activities and keeping you from getting enough rest at
night. Completely eliminating exposure to seasonal
allergens is probably impossible, but Dr. John Basich of
Allergy & Asthma Centers SC in Milwaukee says you can
limit your exposure and reduce your symptoms.
“Tree pollen usually appears first, into
the month of March, while grass pollen comes later in
May. Ragweed season is at the end of July through the
first frost,” says Basich. He recommends staying indoors
in high-allergen times, if possible, as well as keeping
windows closed and the air conditioning on.
“Allergen levels are highest in the early
morning until about 9 a.m. If you can plan your
activities for a little later, you are going to avoid
some problems. People who must be outside can wear a
face mask to filter out pollen and mold,” says Basich.
Sleep problems are common in people with
allergic rhinitis. Research shows that sleep is
dramatically impaired by allergic symptoms and that the
degree of impairment is related to the severity of those
symptoms. Sleeping with open windows can allow allergens
to blow into your bedroom, which could cause you to wake
up feeling even worse. Using the air conditioner is a
better option during high allergen times.
While there is no miracle product that
can cure allergies, many can be successfully treated by
over-the-counter drugs. “You can take oral
antihistamines to help relieve sneezing, runny nose and
watery eyes. Corticosteroid nasal sprays and
decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal
stuffiness if you take them on a regular basis,” says
For some people, allergy shots (allergen
immunotherapy) can be a good option. Over time, these
injections reduce the immune system’s reaction that
causes symptoms. “The shots are given over a period of
about a year and it takes three to six months for them
to become effective. They don’t work for everyone. If
three people are given the shots, two of the three may
stay better for years, but the third person doesn’t get
relief. If effective, they should last two years or
more,” says Basich.
As you expose more skin to the elements,
you need protection from those rays. The number one
thing to remember is sun protection, says Dr. Erik
Alexander, a board-certified dermatologist.
“Skin cancer is at epidemic proportions.
At least one in five people will get a skin cancer in
their lifetime. The two most common types are basal cell
and squamous cell cancer. They tend to be slow growing
and don’t often spread. The more severe type is
melanoma. Fortunately, it’s a little less common, but it
is something we are seeing more of,” says Alexander.
Various risk factors affect the
possibility of a skin cancer diagnosis, but the only
modifiable risk factor is sun exposure. “It’s vital over
the summertime that you are protecting yourself with a
good sunscreen,” says Alexander.
It isn’t enough to just apply sunscreen.
You must apply enough and apply frequently. Studies
indicate that most people don’t apply nearly enough
daylight protection as they should – some studies
recommend using about a shot glass full of sunscreen on
“Sunscreen really needs to be reapplied
every two hours when you’re outside, but every hour if
you are doing something where you’re getting in the
water,” he says.
There are three rules for sunscreen, says
Alexander. “You want an SPF of 30 or higher, it should
be broad spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB rays
and be water resistant with an 80-minute time limit,” he
Don’t forget to be good to your eyes by
wearing protective eyewear. When outdoors, wear
sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB
rays. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts and wrinkles
around the eyes. Ask your eye doctor about the best type
Skin also takes abuse from exposure to
poison ivy and other plants during the summer months.
High rainfall, humidity and temperatures can result in a
bumper crop of poison ivy, oak and sumac. When
picnicking or hiking this summer, wear long sleeves and
pants. “Poison ivy can produce a red, itchy rash, but it
can be treated with over-the-counter pills or creams,”
Topical corticosteroids (like
hydrocortisone) can reduce swelling and help skin heal
faster. Relieve itchiness with cold compresses, calamine
lotion and/or an oral antihistamine.
Good nutrition is important at all times
of the year, but summer is a good time to take advantage
of fresh summer fruits like peaches, mangoes, cherries,
cantaloupe and berries. These are loaded with fiber,
antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients, and they can
help reduce the risk of disease.
People might think they need sun exposure
to get enough vitamin D in their bodies, but you can
consume it in a good diet, says Alexander. “Many of our
foods are fortified with vitamin D or you can take a
supplement. That way you are not exposed to the harmful
rays of the sun.”
Exercising outdoors shouldn’t be a problem if the body
is well-hydrated. If you experience muscle cramps from
too many games of softball or other activities, you may
be dehydrated with an electrolyte imbalance. It makes
sense to drink sports beverages and water, or eat
potassium-rich foods like bananas, pineapple and coconut
water, as recommended by the United States Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. “A good diet is just
common sense. Drink more water than usual and don’t wait
until you’re thirsty to drink more,” says Alexander.