Summer Allergies

Summer is a time for being outdoors with friends and family. Many people go camping, picnic at the beach, or barbeque in the backyard. But along with these outdoor activities comes the possibility of outdoor allergies. Allergies to summer pollens, stinging and biting insects, hidden food ingredients, and smoke from campfires and barbeques can ruin an otherwise perfect activity for some people.

A dandelion in the sunlight
Proby Lee / EyeEm / Getty Images

Summer Pollen Allergy

Grass pollen is usually the predominant pollen in the air during the summer. Allergy to this pollen can cause sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes, as well as cause asthma attacks in some people. Other people get hives and itching after touching or sitting in the grass.

While completely avoiding exposure to grass pollen (and direct contact with grass) may not be possible, there are some measures that can be taken to minimize allergy symptoms. First, using various allergy and asthma medicines can reduce grass pollen allergy symptoms. Next, if there’s a lot of grass blowing around in the air, such as with mowing the lawn, or on days with high pollen counts, wear a mask or bandana over your face to minimize exposure. To minimize your allergy symptoms, it is important to monitor pollen counts so you can limit your exposure on days the counts are high.

Lastly, if you have allergy symptoms when you are outdoors, taking an antihistamine an hour or two beforehand can prevent symptoms in many case. Allergy medications such as antihistamines or nasal spray work best when started before allergy symptoms develop.

Seasonal Allergies Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

Food Allergies at Picnics

At outdoor picnics and barbeques, many different people may bring various dishes with hidden ingredients. This can present a real danger to people with food allergies. Accidental exposure to a number of different foods can occur at a picnic, including peanut, egg, milk, seafood, and other nuts. Therefore, people with food allergies should always be prepared to treat an allergic reaction to foods, and most of these reactions happen after accidentally eating a particular food.

Allergy to Stinging and Biting Insects

Stinging insects, such as bees, wasps, and yellow-jackets, and biting insects such as mosquitoes and fireants, are more active during the summer months and can cause allergic reactions in certain people. Most people experience localized pain, itching and swelling as a result of being stung or bitten. However, some people experience more severe symptoms, including hives, difficulty breathing, or even life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) as a result of an insect sting. Insect allergies are curable, so if you think you have an allergy to stinging insects, you should see an allergist to discuss treatment options.

Preventing insect stings is the most important treatment of insect allergy. People should avoid looking or smelling like a flower, and not wear brightly colored clothing or flowery prints, and avoid wearing perfumes or other scents that may attract stinging insects.

It is important to always wear pants, long-sleeved shirts, close-toed shoes and socks when working outdoors. In addition, a person should check food and drinks, particularly open cans of soda or drinks with straws, before eating or drinking outdoors, as yellow-jackets and other stinging insects are attracted to sugary treats. And always carry your epinephrine auto-injector with you if you have a history of an anaphylactic reaction to stinging insects or fireants.

Various mosquito repellents are available, including sprays and lotions that are applied to the skin, as well as citronella candles, which release a scent that repels mosquitoes.

Smoke Allergy

Exposure to smoke from various sources, such as barbeques and campfires, is also common during the summertime. While this exposure often results in non-allergic irritation of the eyes, nose, and lungs, it is possible to be allergic to smoke. If a person is allergic to the pollen of the tree from which the wood was obtained (such as from the mesquite tree), allergy symptoms can occur with exposure to the smoke from the burning wood.

People with asthma and sensitive noses and eyes should be careful to avoid being directly exposed to smoke from barbeques and campfires and have asthma rescue medicines readily available in case they are needed.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Schmidt CW. Pollen overload: seasonal allergies in a changing climateEnvironmental Health Perspectives. 2016;124(4). doi:10.1289/ehp.124-A70

  2. Xie ZJ, Guan K, Yin J. Advances in the clinical and mechanism research of pollen induced seasonal allergic asthma. Am J Clin Exp Immunol. 2019;8(1):1-8.

  3. Randall KL, Hawkins CA. Antihistamines and allergy. Aust Prescr. 2018;41(2):41-45. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2018.013

  4. Stoevesandt J, Sturm GJ, Bonadonna P, Oude Elberink JNG, Trautmann A. Risk factors and indicators of severe systemic insect sting reactionsAllergy. 2020;75(3):535-545. doi:10.1111/all.13945

Additional Reading

By Daniel More, MD
Daniel More, MD, is a board-certified allergist and clinical immunologist. He is an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and currently practices at Central Coast Allergy and Asthma in Salinas, California.