Summertime Allergies and Dangers

Summertime Allergies and Dangers

Rutgers experts offer tips on how to stay safe outdoors

Summertime means outdoor fun at weddings, 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.

A more severe and life threatening allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which is rare but tends to  increase in the summer for the

Honeybee pollinating


many individuals who are allergic to stinging insects such as yellow jackets. After being exposed to a triggering agent that releases normal body chemicals such as histamine that causes allergy symptoms, anaphylaxis can occur suddenly, can worsen quickly and can be deadly.

“Clearly, planning ahead can make all the difference between a miserable vacation or day out in the park and an enjoyable one,” says Leonard Bielory, M.D., an allergy specialist with the Rutgers Center of Environmental Prediction at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “The Boy Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’ also works for allergies,” he adds.

“Stings from insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants in the U.S. are the cause of more than half a million allergy-related emergency room visits each year,” says Mark Robson, Ph.D., entomologist and public health specialist with Rutgers Cooperative Extension. There are at least 40 deaths from anaphylaxis nationwide.

Bielory and Robson provide some tips to stay safe outdoors:

  • 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.

Media Contact: Paula Walcott-Quintin