How to Battle Summertime Allergies

By Tracy Hampton, Ph.D.
BIDMC Correspondent


While most people whole-heartedly welcome the warmer weather and beauty that comes with spring and summer, the estimated 1 in 5 who suffer from allergies must also brace for wheezing, coughing, and runny eyes that can come as a result of the beautifully blooming trees and flourishing grasses.


Anna Kovalszki, MD, of the Division of Allergy and Inflammation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says it’s hard to predict how bad a particular allergy season will be, but historically, the trend has been escalating. “So far this year, we’re seeing many patients state that allergy season has been particularly bothersome,” says Dr. Kovalszki.


While it may be impossible to avoid all triggers, it’s often possible to avoid prolonged exposure. “Patients seeking to plan outdoor activities can get regional pollen counts through a variety of sources,” says Daniel Steinberg, MD, director of the Allergy & Asthma Center of Massachusetts. Those who want up-to-date forecasts for specific areas can find them through or the AAAAI National Allergy Bureau,, he suggests.


When medical relief is needed, it can often come with simple over-the-counter or prescription medications such as inhaled steroid sprays, antihistamines, decongestants, and leukotriene antagonists. But people with multiple allergies may need more potent therapy such as allergy shots that desensitize the immune system by introducing allergens in a different way. The goal is to make patients less allergic over time. “Immunotherapy is usually reserved for patients who have severe allergies, asthma, don’t respond well to medications or get recurrent sinusitis,” says Dr. Kovalszki.


Experts stress the importance of seeing an allergy/immunology specialist to identify allergy triggers and determine which medications or other therapies might help. With so many treatments available, there is no reason for patients with persistent symptoms to not get tested, get treated, and hopefully get better.


Also, because summer is a popular time to take a vacation, Dr. Steinberg offers several tips to keep allergy sufferers symptom-free while traveling.


•Be prepared ahead of time by identifying your triggers, being aware of any potential triggers you might encounter during your trip, and packing adequate supplies of medications.


•Choose a destination that has the least potential to aggravate allergic symptoms, and be realistic about your ability to tolerate altitude, extreme climates, dehydration, exertion, smoke, and animal exposure.


•If traveling by airplane, place all medications in your hand luggage and carry them with you onto the plane. “A lost bag in transit is a hassle. A lost bag with all of your medications inside is a disaster,” says Dr. Steinberg.   •Reserve smoke-free and air-conditioned accommodations whenever possible.



“Preparing in advance for summertime traveling with allergic and respiratory conditions is the best prescription for a healthy and enjoyable experience,” says Dr. Steinberg.


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.