Summer allergies: pollen, pollution, asthma and trigger foods

Do I suffer from Seasonal Rhinitis?

Pollen is the biggest culprit when it comes to summer allergies also known as seasonal rhinitis. If you have hay fever, it's likely that you also suffer from seasonal rhinitis. Hay fever affects more than 20% of the UK population, the season can start as early as February and runs through to September. But is hay fever the only summer allergy that we should be aware of? Summer allergies and their symptoms are similar to hay fever so you're likely to get a runny nose, watery or itchy eyes and suffer from relentless sneezing.

Air pollution

Pollutants, like carbon dioxide can cause irritation to the upper airways. If you already suffer from hay fever, you’re more susceptible to feel irritated by the air pollution. The interaction between air pollutants and pollen grains might damage pollen cell wall, increasing the number of allergens released in the environment. These can make you feel irritated resulting in watery eyes, sneezing, itchy nose and eyes. The air pollutants can interact with the pollen and act as a more potent stimulus to produce an inflammatory reaction.

Not only this, but you might find that when you’re on airplane that you have a similar reaction as you do with hay fever. This is because the recycled air on planes circulate dust mites that irritate the nasal passages in the same way. You can tackle this by taking an antihistamine before you go away for your summer holiday.

Asthma in summer

Asthma sufferers might also feel like their problems get worse in the summer. And again, it’s linked to pollen. When flowers start to pollinate and release their pollen in the air, it can attack the throat and cause wheezing or inflamed airways.

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Pollen food syndrome

apples on a bircher tree | summer allergies | London Doctors Clinic

People who are affected by a pollen allergy can also suffer from oral allergy syndrome, causing an allergic reaction to foods like apples.

Oral allergy syndrome is an allergic reaction to fresh fruits, vegetables and/or nuts that can affect people who are allergic to pollen. Apples, peaches, prunes, pears, cherries, celery, almonds and hazelnuts, share similar proteins with pollen. Antibodies specific to pollen, cross react to these proteins resulting in a type 1, hypersensitivity reaction. The symptoms are usually limited to the mouth and throat, where you might experience itchy throat or some swelling. What’s interesting is that cooked or processed forms of these foods breaks down these proteins and usually safer to eat (does not apply to nuts).

How to avoid summer allergies

  • Check pollen counts for the area, and avoid going outdoors, when it is high
  • Change clothes when you get indoors and shower to wash pollen off skin
  • Keep windows closed particularly early mornings and evenings, when high amounts of pollen are in the air
  • Put Vaseline around nostrils to trap pollen and prevent entry
  • Use a pollen filter for the air vents in your car with a special HEPA filter


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Managing symptoms with medication

  • Non-drowsy antihistamines are usually the go-to when it comes to allergies. If over-the-counter options don’t seem to ease your symptoms, you can book a private GP appointment with us - we can go through your symptoms and work out the best solution for you.
  • Steroid nasal sprays or nasal corticosteroid sprays can help relieve an itchy or runny nose, congestion and swelling of your nasal passageway.
  • Eye drops containing sodium cromoglycate can help soothe itchy or dry eyes.
  • Immunotherapy-If medications don’t relieve symptoms, we may suggest immunotherapy or desensitisation, where you will receive regular injections over three-five years, containing small number of allergens, to get the body used to it and decrease the need for medications.


Written by Dr Priyanka Garg