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Watch out for backyard allergy triggers

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SATURDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Allergy and asthma triggers can turn your backyard from a summer oasis into a place of misery if you don't take precautions, experts say.

More than 50 million Americans have allergies and asthma, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Here, the college identifies potential causes of allergy and asthma that could lurk in your backyard:

Insect stings can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. People who know they have an insect allergy should always carry their prescribed epinephrine. To avoid insect sting, always wear shoes in the yard; keep food covered; don't sip from open soft drinks; steer clear of sweet-smelling perfumes, deodorants and hairspray; and don't wear brightly colored clothes.

Grass and tree pollens aren't the only outdoor allergens that can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. They can also be caused by outdoor molds that grow on rotting logs, in compost piles and on grasses and grains. Summer heat can promote mold growth. If over-the-counter remedies don't relieve symptoms, you may need to get allergy shots, the allergists said.

Some people are allergic to certain sunscreens. If you notice a rash or itchy skin after applying sunscreen, you might be allergic to the chemicals in the product. Choose natural sunscreens that don't have the chemicals benzophenone, octocrylene and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), which can irritate skin.

About 4 percent of Americans have a food allergy, and they need to be careful at backyard barbecues. They may be unknowingly exposed to food allergens in salads and sauces. Another potential threat is cross-contamination, which occurs when the same utensils are used for grilling and serving side dishes, and when condiments are shared. People with food allergies should bring an allergy-free dish for themselves, use condiment packets and carry two doses of prescribed epinephrine.

Smoke from barbecues and open fires can trigger an asthma attack. Sit upwind of the smoke and avoid getting too close.

The bite of the lone star tick, which is found in southern and central regions of the United States, can cause an allergic reaction after you eat red meat. If you notice hives, nausea, asthma and other allergy symptoms three to six hours after eating red meat, you may have what is called a meat-induced alpha-gal allergic reaction. If the symptoms are serious, seek emergency medical care. Follow up with proper allergy testing and a treatment plan.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about allergies.

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