How to cope with summer allergies

Ten years ago for my 40th birthday, my wife bought me a nice Martin acoustic guitar. After using it in original bands for years that didn’t make any money, I thought I might venture out on my own and try to bring in some extra cash playing other people’s songs by myself. So far it has been very rewarding, and in some instances, lucrative.

The only drawback is that most of these gigs are outdoors. While the sweltering Houston heat hasn’t bothered me (at least not yet), the pollen and every other type of weed, grass or air pollution certainly has. It seems like every gig I battle a stuffy and runny nose, a scratchy throat, etc. This is not good when you are trying to sing for anywhere between two and four hours at a time.

Millions deal with summer allergies every year, and many things can cause symptoms such as watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, hay fever and the aforementioned scratchy throat and stuffy and runny nose.

Our body’s immune system is built to protect us from viruses, bacteria and parasites, but sometimes it gets confused. When this occurs the body releases chemicals, like histamine, that can trigger an allergic reaction.

The most common triggers are pollen and ragweed. Pollen usually arrives when trees are done pollinating in late spring and the ragweed likes to rear its ugly head in August. While pollen attaches itself to grass and weeds where you live, ragweed can travel hundreds of miles in the wind and trigger allergies. In other words, ragweed in Dallas can get us here in Houston.

Air pollution can also wreak havoc during the summer months. The most common pollutant is ozone, which is caused by a combination of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and the sun. The levels in cities like Houston and Los Angeles are very high during the summer. It’s important to pay attention to local weather reports to see the daily pollen, ragweed counts and ozone levels are each day and if it’s safe for you to be outside on those days.

Common allergy triggers are ragweed, pollen, dust mites and air pollution Click To Tweet

Don’t forget about dust mites. They are those lovely little creatures that we cannot see, but who show up in our house and make themselves at home. They love the summer’s warm, humid temperatures and they live and multiply in places like beds, fabric, carpets and, it seems, every place else.

Dr. Joshua Septimus, an internist with Houston Methodist Hospital, says it’s important to be the aggressor when it comes to dealing with seasonal allergies. For example, if you know you have seasonal allergies, a couple of weeks before you usually experience problems, start taking an over-the-counter, non-sedating, antihistamines like Claritin, Allegra, and continue to take them through allergy season. Nasal steroids are also good for people who experience something as simple as a runny nose.

Septimus adds that you should schedule a doctor’s appointment to talk about your symptoms and allergy history. Your doctor may suggest allergy treatments or send you to a specialist who might perform a skin test.

Taking steps to battle your summer allergies will make that trip to the beach or pool or just spending time with your family much more enjoyable.

Summertime snacks fit for kids

In just a few days, my teenage son will come spend the next month with me, and there are three things I’m certain of: He’ll stay up long after he’s supposed to; he’ll sleep way longer than he should; and he’ll eat me out of house and home.

While I don’t have the energy to control the first and I have to work and can’t always control the second, I do know I have some power over what he eats when he’s at my house. As anyone with a teenage boy in the house will attest – they can eat … a lot. Just because he’s going to eat doesn’t mean he can’t eat healthy.

While we can't control everything our kids do, we can help them make healthier decisions when it comes to food Click To Tweet

I reached out to Kristen Kizer, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietitian with Houston Methodist Wellness Services for some healthy food suggestions for my son. She provided me some great (and simple!) summertime snacks that should keep any teenager properly fueled for most activities.

Guacamole and baby carrots:

“All this simple guacamole requires is jar of salsa and some avocados. You mix them together and you have an instant dip for veggies,” Kristen said. She recommends baby carrots because they’re already washed and ready to eat. “The vitamin C in the salsa will keep the guacamole from turning brown and the healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado will keep your hungry teens satisfied,” she said.

Whole wheat rotini and veggies and pasta sauce:

“Pasta is versatile and can easily be made in large quantities. Take a bag of frozen mixed veggies together with a jar of pasta sauce and heat up in a sauce pot while you cook the pasta,” Kristen said. To make it easy for your teenager to heat up, Kristen suggests putting everything in the refrigerator in a covered glass container once it’s been cooked. “All your kids have to do is grab the complete meal and heat it up in the microwave, and with all the sauce and vegetables, they won’t even know they’re getting a healthy dose of fiber, magnesium, manganese and selenium,” she said.

Greek yogurt with fruit:

“I prefer to add frozen fruit to Greek yogurt over fresh because it makes it a cool, refreshing treat, and as the fruit melts, the juice spreads throughout the yogurt, making it sweeter,” Kristin said. She suggests buying 32-ounce containers of yogurt and adding your teenager’s favorite fruit. “The extra protein from the Greek yogurt will keep your hungry teen full and he or she will also be getting fiber from the fruit, as well as vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and calcium.”

Cereal:

When you don’t have time to leave something prepared, cereal is always an easy alternative. “Keeping a box of lower sugar cereal on hand can be helpful when teens are around. I suggest something with no more than 6 grams of sugar, like Kashi’s Heart-to-Heart or Honey Sunshine,” Kristen said. “Original Cheerios  can also be jazzed up with some vanilla extract and cinnamon, or PB2, a natural, dried peanut butter powder that can make plain Cheerios taste a lot more like their peanut butter variety without all the added sugar.”

Thanks to Kristen’s help I think I’m ready for the onslaught my kitchen will face these coming weeks, and perhaps more important, my son will have healthy alternatives to enjoy instead of typical junk food and snacks.

For healthy cooking ideas, check out our Snack Smart Pinterest board.

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