Originally written June 15, 2016
As people head out into the mountains and forests to go camping this summer, they might be worried their allergies will get worse because they’re spending more time outside. After all, more time outside means more pollen means worse allergies, right? Not necessarily.
Pollen is perhaps the most notable allergen that people point to when experiencing allergy symptoms. Grass pollen in particular is heavy during the summer season, and whether you're camping in the Charlotte metro area or heading west towards Boone and Blowing Rock you may come across it during your travels. Ragweed is more notable during the fall time but the plant begins to grow and mature in the middle of summer. With a lot of families bringing their pets into the wild, those who are sensitive to pet dander from dogs may also have symptoms.
"Just because you’re in a forest or outside doesn’t necessarily mean your allergies will be worse camping than in the city," CEENTA otolaryngologist and allergy specialist Hunter Hoover, MD, said. While there is more vegetation in a place with lots of plants compared to one with lots of concrete, pollen does get picked up by the wind and can float for a few miles. Therefore, people who live in cities can still be affected by a lot of pollen. And while some people might think camping in a different environment than the one you live in might be worse for your allergies, in general you should actually feel better.
Allergies aren’t triggered the first time you’re exposed to an allergen like pollen. You have to be exposed to it repeatedly for your immune system to start reacting to it and for allergies to develop. While there are exceptions, for the most part you won’t be around anything new long enough to develop allergies. In fact, leaving your normal environment may make your allergies better because you’re around your normal allergens less.
Allergies shouldn't deter you from enjoying the great outdoors, but there might be some precautions to take to ensure that your sniffling and sneezing doesn't affect you as much. "A visit to your doctor isn’t necessary before going camping," Dr. Hoover said, "but you can take medicine with you." The best medicine for allergies is an internasal steroid like Flonase, Nasacort, and Rhinocort, all of which are available over the counter. Antihistamines like Claritin will fix symptoms like a runny nose, but they don’t help the worst symptom: the blocked nose. For someone with mild allergies an antihistamine should be fine, but if they’re more serious they should use a spray. Not only do nasal sprays deal with all the symptoms, but they are safe and you can’t get addicted to them. The downside to them, however, is they don’t start working right away, so people going on a trip would have to use them regularly for a few days to a week prior to get the maximum benefit from them.
While it is safe to take extra medicine, the key is to start ahead of time, not when your symptoms get bad. "So, if you take sprays ahead of time extra medicine probably won’t be necessary," Dr. Hoover said.
A standard first aid kit probably wouldn’t have anything to treat severe allergy attacks. An Epipen would be used if someone went into anaphylactic shock, but you would need a prescription for one. However, you don’t usually have anaphylactic reactions from pollen allergies.
This summer, breathe better with allergy care at CEENTA. Our allergy specialists work at nearly twenty offices in the Carolinas and can recommend treatment options that fit your lifestyle, including allergy shots, tablets, and sublingual drops. Schedule your allergy test and treatment appointment with CEENTA today and get back to nature.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Hoover is an otolaryngologist who specializes in comprehensive adult and pediatric ENT care, tonsils and adenoids, ear tube surgery, balloon sinuplasty, pediatric airway treatment, and allergies. He practices in our SouthPark office. To make an appointment with a CEENTA allergy specialist, schedule online, through myCEENTAchart, or by calling 704-295-3000.
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