As the weather begins to change and improve, there is nothing better than spending some time outdoors, soaking up some sun. However, for those of us who suffer from allergies and hay fever, the coming of summer can fill you with a sense of dread.
Instead of thinking about months of warm weather, weekends at the beach and evenings spent watching sunsets, those with allergies think of the summer months as the time when irritation and symptoms worsen. But are allergies really worse during the summer?
Before we find out whether or not allergies are exacerbated at certain times of the year, it is important to find out what causes allergies. According to the NHS, up to 1 in 4 people suffer from allergies at some point in their lives.
Allergies can change as we age and grow. They are especially common in children, and for some, they are a temporary ailment that children grow out of. Conversely, some individuals will develop allergies in adulthood that they didn’t have before.
Allergic reactions take many forms and are instantly recognisable for sufferers. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:
Most of us who experience allergies have mild, although very uncomfortable reactions. However, very severe allergic reactions can also occur, these reactions are called anaphylaxis, otherwise known as going into anaphylactic shock. These reactions are extremely serious and require immediate medical attention.
Allergies happen when the immune system has a reaction to a certain substance as though that substance is harmful. It is not yet understood why the body has these reactions but many individuals who suffer have a family history of similar allergies.
However, every year the number of people with allergies increases. It is not yet understood why allergies are increasing but some think it is because of changes to our diets or because children are now growing up in very clean, germ-free environments and their immune systems are developing differently. As a result of growing up around fewer germs, children’s immune systems handle fewer germs and, when they get older, their bodies might overreact when they encounter harmless substances.
Weather is a common trigger for many allergies because changes in the weather signal a change in the amount of pollen that will be in the air, along with the growing and seeding times of various plants.
Hot summer days usually exacerbate allergies as air pollution is worse on hot days. Without rain and wind, air pollution can get caught and create a hot haze. Also, built-up ozone and smog can lead to breathing issues with those who have health issues like asthma, respiratory diseases and allergies.
Moreover, as the seasons change from spring to summer, plants also change. In the spring, plants begin to release pollen around February and March. This tree pollen or plant pollen, can trigger some allergy sufferers and spell out the beginning of the allergy season.
While there is a long list of flora that can cause allergies, the following grass and weed species are the most likely to cause, or exacerbate, your allergies:
When the summer starts, grass pollen then is released and will also lead to allergic reactions. As the summer progresses, other plants such as ragweed take over and being releasing allergy-causing pollen into the atmosphere.
You might think that mould is a problem mostly for the winter months. However, the heat of summer can lead to trapped damp and condensation indoors which can in turn create serious mould problems. Mould can be a trigger for allergies as well and it can feel like you are followed by irritants, no matter where you go.
In addition to mould, microscopic insects called dust mites thrive in heat and damp. These creatures tend to peak in summer when the weather is most amenable to them. Dust mites live in beds, carpets, bedding, fabric and even stuffed animals. The residues that the dust mites leave behind can incite allergies as well in sufferers.
Issues with mould, dust mites, pet dander and other allergens can last all year however, as they are usually found within the home. Sometimes allergies will even worsen in the winter because more time is spent at home indoors.
There are a number of ways to treat your allergies to lessen their impact on your life. One way is through medical treatment. There are a number of over-the-counter treatments that most allergy sufferers are very familiar with. These include:
If you are still suffering from allergies, you can also see your doctor about using prescription medication which is usually stronger than these basic treatments. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan. This plan could include prescription medication such as corticosteroid or ipratropium nasal sprays. Or, your doctor could suggest immunotherapy, which involves receiving very small doses of the allergen in shots, drops or tablets with a view towards building and developing your immune system.
Along with taking medication, there are a number of ways to lessen the impact of allergies, or just avoid them. One easy way to avoid an allergy flare up, is to take into account smog- and pollen-count monitors. When the heat increases and the smog or pollen counts are high, you should stay inside and keep your doors and windows closed.
During the highest pollen counts, you can also shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after going outside. This will limit the amount of pollen that is brought inside your home. Also, when moving your lawn, you should wear a mask to protect yourself from grass pollen.
Once inside, there are a number of steps you can take to limit the number of allergens in your home. In order to reduce the impact of indoor irritants like dust mites and mould, you should regularly wash your bedding in hot, not cold, water.
You should also vacuum your home often and wear a mask when you do. Vacuuming will release pollen, mould and dust that was settled into your carpet. It is important to also use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, so the allergens are contained effectively.
However, the most effective way to combat allergies indoors is through proper ventilation systems. High-quality extractor fans fight mould in warm and damp areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens. This kills off mould growth and prevents additional mould from developing further, thus limiting the amount of allergy-causing mould in your home.
To purify your air as much as possible, you can also invest in positive input ventilation for your home. These efficient systems ventilate your home from a central point and also act to control condensation indoors. These ventilators draw in fresh air from the outside and filter it for potentially harmful chemicals and allergens. The air is then ventilated throughout the home to freshen up the stagnant indoor air with fresh, purified and allergy-free air.
The positive input ventilation systems also benefit asthma sufferers as they improve the overall air quality, while also filtering out pollen and other naturally-produced allergens. By helping to remove condensation, the ventilators also make sure conditions are dry and allergy-triggering mould has no place to grow.
If you have a small apartment, studio or flat, you can also benefit from a new ventilation system with EnviroVent’s compact ATMOS® ventilation system. This small ventilator effectively replaces the air in your abode with fresh, purified air. All allergens, contaminants and pollutants are removed before the clean air is circulated through the rest of the apartment. Once you have an EnviroVent system installed, you can forget your allergy worries within the home and begin enjoying fresh, decontaminated air.
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