Summer is a great time to get outside, play and fire up the grill, but it's also a time of year for stinging insects to be out and about.
Dr. Marc Cromie at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic encourages the public to watch out for these known triggers and others to stay safe and have a great summer.
"The tree pollen has died out from spring, and we don't get into ragweed until fall, but we do have pollens causing trouble from grass and hay," he said. "We also have molds and mold spores from heavy rain that cause issues, but the most dangerous trigger this season is the winged flying insects including honeybees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps and even fire ants."
Dr. Cromie said that while fire ants can't fly, they do bite and still inject venom that causes terrible allergic reactions -- sometimes serious -- for patients.
"The best way to stay safe is avoidance and common sense," he said. "Don't drink from open Coke cans, as those attract yellow jackets. Don't walk barefoot in the grass to avoid honeybees, and be careful when cutting the lawn, as that's where you stumble upon yellow jacket nests in the ground near shrubs."
Landscapers and gardeners or anyone working outside in the yard also needs to beware of poison ivy and other contact allergies that are nearly impossible to avoid.
"Exposure from contact by these plants causes patients to break out in a rash," Dr. Cromie said. "Sensitivity to this trigger is very common and hard to avoid when you're out pulling weeds and brush."
He added that the only treatment for exposure to poison ivy is topical antihistamines and steroid creams.
"The good thing about venom allergies from insects is that, just like with pollens, we can do skin testing to create a plan for allergy shots," Dr. Cromie noted. "They really are the most effective medicine and reduce the chances of patients of having an anaphylactic reaction from 60 down to 3 percent."
Patients who are allergic to the venom these insects inject should always have an EpiPen with them, he stressed.
"Another thing to watch out for during the summer is sunscreens," said Dr. Cromie. "Kids with very sensitive skin can have reactions to some of the preservatives in the screens, so it's important to look for brands that are hypoallergenic."
With all the picnics and cookouts taking place this time of year, it's also not uncommon for people to experience trouble with food allergies involving seasonal fruits, he added. "It's a seasonal thing because they are more available," Dr. Cromie said. "People with high pollen allergies often have trouble with fresh apples or watermelons that cross with the pollens."
As always, the doctors at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic stress that patients who experience more than local reaction to stings or triggers be seen and treated by an allergist right away to avoid serious problems.
"A local reaction involves swelling at the site, or may even spread to the whole hand," Dr. Cromie explained. "If patients get hives all over, their face swells or their blood pressure drops, they need to be evaluated and treated immediately."
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic treats all types of allergic disorders. The practice has five offices with seven providers in and around Chattanooga. For more information about spring allergies or to find an office near you, visit chattanoogaallergyclinic.com or call 423-899-0431.