While it's the time of year for fun in the sun, enjoying the great outdoors is not without its dangers, especially in the world of allergens.
The bees are buzzing, and for many in the Scenic City, that can be a problem. According to Dr. Marc Cromie at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, the insects that are most harmful at this time of year are those of the hymenoptera order, or in other words, those that are venomous.
"Honeybees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps and fire ants are the ones you want to watch out for during summer months," Dr. Cromie said. "They all inject an allergenic toxin that's protein-based and can cause serious, even life-threatening reactions."
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic offers testing to help people determine which of these insects they are allergic to and provides counsel on how to best be treated. Dr. Cromie stressed that as with any allergen, receiving allergy shots is usually the best treatment option, especially for those who are highly allergic to the venomous insects.
"We don't want people to live with what we call 'fear of the patio,'" he said. "Allergy shots can change your life and actually cure you from a summer disaster waiting to happen."
Dr. Cromie added that without shots, people allergic to the insects' stings and bites have a 60 percent chance - or greater - of having a severe allergic reaction. That risk is reduced drastically to less than 3 percent within a three-month period of getting allergy shots.
In the meantime, there are steps to take both to avoid getting stung or bitten and to help in the unfortunate event of a painful encounter. Dr. Cromie advises that if stung by a honeybee, a quick scrape with a fingernail or credit card is the best method to remove the stinger left behind.
"Squeezing the stinger will only inject more venom into the site, so you don't want to do that," he said. With fire ants, he says to quickly brush them off, as they can bite multiple times and quickly create a strong reaction if not dealt with.
"For localized reactions, elevate the part in question and treat the swelling with ice and soap and water to clean it," said Dr. Cromie. "You can also use Benadryl for itching, or right away if it's a severe reaction, which includes faintness, severe swelling, shortness of breath or problems breathing an epi-pen should be administered and get the person to the emergency room."
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic treats every type of allergic disorders and problems including hay fever, allergic rhimitis, asthma, eczema, food allergy, drug allergy, Hives, and chronic symusitus. There are five offices with eight providers in and around Chattanooga. For more information about summer allergies or to find an office near you, visit chattanoogaallergyclinic.com or call 423-899-0431.
Insects are not the only problem allergists see during the summer months. This time of year is also ideal for dust mites, thus creating a high probability of indoor allergens people need to watch for. "The high levels of heat and humidity are why dust mite growth is so elevated," Dr. Cromie explained. "Wash all your bedding in hot water and use pillow covers that are tightly woven to help eliminate dust mites and their growth."
He added that keeping humidity levels between 30-50 percent in the home and keeping the air conditioner on also helps give people relief from this common indoor allergen.
Finally, Chattanoogans need to be aware of the ozone layer and the daily air quality, as it acts as a strong irritant for people with asthma as well as the elderly. "You'll see on TV that it's a code orange day," Dr. Cromie said. "Pay attention to that and to what it means for the air outside."
A way to protect yourself against ozone trouble is being sure to take any daily runs early in the morning or before the hottest part of the day, he said.
"Patients with asthma also need to be sure to pretreat with their fast acting albuteral based inhaler before heading out," Dr. Cromie added.