Allergic diseases do not take a break during summer. They are increasingly common and affect one in four Italians. So, what should you know, and what remedies can you use for allergic symptoms during these months?
What are Allergies and Allergens?
Allergy is a reaction of the immune system towards substances called allergens. These are present in our environment, such as pollens, mites, and molds, as well as in food and insect venoms from bees, wasps, and hornets. Allergens can be inhalants like grass or tree pollens, dust mites, molds, or animal epithelia. They can also be in food like eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, fruits, and flours, drugs like antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, or insect venoms like bees, wasps, or hornets.
Summer Allergies: Inhalant Allergens
For patients allergic to pollens of grasses in the composite family, such as ragweed or wormwood (mugwort), the summer season can be particularly difficult. These pollens swarm the air from July to September. Due to climate change, we also see protracted pollination in summer from more typical spring grasses such as grasses. Additionally, the hot-humid climate of summer encourages the development of dust mites, specific indoor allergens, which can multiply in vacation homes if primary environmental remediation measures are not implemented.
Insect Bites and the Venom of Jellyfish
Hymenoptera, insects that inject venom when stung, include bees, wasps, and hornets. Stings from these insects cause swelling, redness, pain, or burning, which disappear within a few hours in most cases. However, in rare cases, one can become allergic to their venom and, in the case of subsequent stings, develop more severe reactions like hives, angioedema, asthma, gastrointestinal distress, or even anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction that affects the whole body, particularly the cardiovascular system, with sudden lowering of blood pressure (shock) that can be life-threatening if not treated promptly with appropriate medications. Jellyfish can also cause a local irritative reaction that is usually very painful and should not be underestimated. If you come in contact with a jellyfish, rinse the area immediately, do not scratch, and apply an aluminum chloride astringent gel if possible. Urine, ammonia, and natural remedies like hot stones or sand can only worsen irritation or promote overlapping infections and are not recommended.
Allergies to Creams, Tanning Oils, and Hair Products
Sunscreens, tanning oils, or shampoos can also cause irritative reactions or contact allergies caused by specific chemicals or preservatives in their formulations. Suppose you experience skin reactions after applying creams. In that case, it is always helpful to consult a specialist to perform diagnostic tests (patch tests) to identify substances that could be responsible for the contact allergy. You should avoid these substances by carefully checking the constituents of the chosen product.
Beware of Hives
Excessive sun exposure can trigger forms of dermatitis or non-allergic urticaria. Sun erythema is one of the most common dermatitis that occurs in predisposed people, usually after prolonged exposure to the sun, mainly if an adequate protective filter is not used. There are also forms of non-allergic urticaria, called physical urticaria, that occur after swimming in the sea or pool, especially after immersion in cold water.
Medications for Allergies
Antihistamines are the drug of choice to treat respiratory allergies (allergic rhinitis or allergic conjunctivitis) and urticaria. So, taking them with you on vacation is a good idea. Other drugs useful in treating allergic manifestations on specific indications are corticosteroids. Patients allergic to hymenoptera venom or food should have life-saving medication in case of severe reactions. This is adrenaline in the form of auto-injectors (pre-filled pens) designed to be administered as quickly as possible, in case of an emergency, by the person himself, even before medical help arrives on the scene. Suppose you experience an allergy for the first time. In that case, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is always ideal to identify the cause and define the appropriate treatment for the individual patient.