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Breathe easy and don't scratch this Fourth of July

June 30, 2014
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
Activities surrounding the 4th of July can create health hazards for those who suffer from allergies and asthma. Smoke from fireworks can make it hard for those with asthma to breathe, and certain fresh fruits and vegetables can create an allergy-like reaction for people with hay fever.

It's the Fourth of July -- BOOM! -- that time of year when many people are outside -- SWISSHHH! -- enjoying fireworks, picnics, swimming and outdoor activities -- POPOPOPOP! To make sure everyone enjoys the red, white and blue holiday to the fullest, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) offers some star-spangled tips.

"Summer is filled with fun festivities, but allergy and asthma sufferers need to be aware of the triggers which can sometimes ruin their good time," said allergist Michael Foggs, MD, ACAAI president. "Working with an allergist who can arm you with knowledge about possible risks, and how to handle them, means getting back to all the outdoor activities, family reunions, camping and swimming that people love about summer."

Fireworks, Campfires and Asthma Don't Mix

Fireworks and campfires are a staple of the 4th of July, but smoke can cause asthma symptoms to flare. Allergists recommend keeping your distance from campfires -- and if you have to be near one, sit upwind if possible. If you can't resist the fireworks, consider wearing a NIOSH N95 rated filter mask to keep smoke out of your lungs, and always carry your reliever inhaler.

Summer's Bounty of Produce Can Sometimes Cause Itching and Swelling

If you suffer from hay fever and you've ever experienced an itchy mouth, scratchy throat or swelling of the lips or mouth after eating certain raw fruits or vegetables, you may have oral allergy syndrome. Oral allergy syndrome is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables, or some tree nuts. An allergist can help you determine if your reaction to certain foods has to do with oral allergy syndrome, and possibly get you eating your favorite fruits and veggies again.

Changes in Weather Can Heat Up or Stifle Fun

July is when things start to really heat up, but whether it is stifling humidity or a refreshing cool breeze, sudden changes in the weather can trigger an asthma attack. Allergists are experts in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, and can develop a plan to keep symptoms in check, no matter the season or the temperature. Keeping an eye on the weather and knowing how changes might affect your asthma will go a long way towards helping you enjoy the summer season. Consider indoor activities and exercise on hot, high pollen and humid days and watch out for "ozone alert" days, when your lungs need to work even harder. Replace your HVAC filter with a high-efficiency (MERV 11 or higher) filter and change every three months. Remember that everyone needs to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated during hot weather periods.

If You Don't Bother It, It Won't (Ouch!) Bother You

No one wants to get stung by an insect, but for some people it can be very serious because they are at risk of suffering life-threatening reactions to insect venom. If you experience facial swelling, difficulty breathing or another unusual reaction after insect stings, call 911 and receive immediate emergency care. Follow up with an allergist, who will prescribe epinephrine and possibly allergy shots that can save your life.

Cannonball! Everyone into the Pool!

While some people are convinced they are allergic to chlorine, the truth is that chlorine is not an allergen. However, the smell of chlorine is an irritant for some, causing allergy-like eye and nose itching, and discomfort. Some people with asthma also experience difficulties when coming in contact with chlorine. Skin sensitivity to chlorine is often treated by washing the affected area with clean water to remove traces of the remaining irritant. In some cases a corticosteroid cream may be prescribed. Hives can be treated with an antihistamine.

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "Breathe easy and don't scratch this Fourth of July." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2014. <>.
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). (2014, June 30). Breathe easy and don't scratch this Fourth of July. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 10, 2016 from
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "Breathe easy and don't scratch this Fourth of July." ScienceDaily. (accessed February 10, 2016).

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