Take the Itch Out of Summer Allergies!

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Let's face it_ The best defense is a good offense. In the case of allergies, that means you'll need to develop a plan for allergic conditions such as stinging insect allergy, bug bite and mosquito reactions, food allergies, poison ivy and other rashes - especially if you have a history of an allergic reaction.

Pesky mosquitoes can cause small or large bite reactions. Are you allergic to mosquitoes? Don't scratch to avoid localized infection. Topical steroid creams and cool compresses may offer supportive relief. Don't smell so nice and avoid scented products and colognes. Also, prime biting times are generally dusk and dawn. Use insect repellents and wear long sleeves and pants - especially if in the woods or in a heavy mosquito area.

If you have a history of reacting to stinging insects such as a honey bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket, you certainly need an evaluation with an experienced insect allergy specialist. Frequent testing can reveal whether or not you will need to receive allergy injections to reduce your risk of a future life-threatening reaction, if stung.

Are you allergic to sunscreen and other products you may be using outdoors and at the beach? Skin allergies to the suspect ingredient can be easily diagnosed through office-based skin patch tests to identify the skin allergen that is likely to be causing the reaction or rash. Sometimes it even is a fragrance or preservative present in the product used.

Poison ivy reactions are on the rise due to climate change. Know what these problematic plants look like, especially if you react to them. You may try various over-the-counter barrier- or lanolin-type creams that are now designed to prevent the oil in the poison ivy/sumac family of plants that cause the horrible itching, rashes and blisters associated with this condition. Some individuals with severe reactions will need prescription medication for proper treatment.

Stay tuned for other mid summer strategies to keep you well.

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett

is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.