Summer is over, and fall, the third and final pollen allergy season, is creeping in. This is not good news for those who are allergic to ragweed.
What is ragweed and when is the ragweed pollen season?
Among the weeds that release the most allergenic pollens, ragweed is the most common. It is usually found in underdeveloped areas such as fields and along roadsides in a rural environment. But ragweed can also grow in vacant lots in urban areas, or get blown in from nearby towns.
A fascinating fact is that a single ragweed plant can release billions of pollen grains each day, and because it is so light, the pollens can ride with the wind for up to 400 miles. No wonder ragweed allergies are out of control in the fall.
Pollination periods of ragweed last around six to eight weeks, and can begin as early as mid-August, peak around September, and usually ends in November, right before winter.
What causes a ragweed allergy?
Airborne ragweed pollens that enter our bodies when we inhale cause mild to severe allergy symptoms.
There are several types of ragweed, but two species are tagged as the most troublesome allergy triggers in North America: common ragweed (Ambrosia aratemisiifolia) and giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). Common ragweed can grow up to four feet tall, but is quite short compared to giant ragweed which can grow to be 15 feet tall.
Ragweed allergies can also be caused by cross-reactivity with some common foods, including honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, banana, and chamomile. These foods should be avoided to reduce the allergy symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Ragweed allergies manifest as hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, eye irritation, watery puffy eyes, and sore throat. Severe allergic reactions include asthma attacks, chronic sinusitis, tracheitis, bronchitis, headaches and sleep impairment. Allergy sufferers feel fatigued and have trouble concentrating.
When ingested food cross-reacts to ragweed pollen, it was cause oral allergy syndrome with itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or roof of the mouth as symptoms.
What is the best way to manage a ragweed allergy?
Since ragweed pollen is airborne, there is no way we can avoid it. The next best thing to do is reduce our exposure to the allergen.
Stay indoors on a dry, hot, or windy day or between 5:00 AM and 10:00 AM. It is better to schedule errands outdoors in the late afternoon, or right after a heavy rain when pollen levels are down.
Change your clothes and take a shower as soon as you get home because our clothes and skin pick up pollens while we’re outdoors. Pollens can also stick to our pet’s fur so you should not let them near your bedroom or furniture. Same goes for drying our clothes; if left outside to dry, pollens would easily latch on. So dry your clothes indoors in an automatic dryer.
So that windblown ragweed pollens do not enter our homes, keep your windows closed, and opt to use air-conditioning instead. Same goes for your car window, keep it rolled up while driving to prevent you from inhaling ragweed pollens from outside.
A visit to your doctor will be most helpful especially if you are unsure of your condition. For starters, doctors would do an allergy test, and the eventually, they will recommend antihistamines, decongestants, and steroid nose sprays to ease the allergies. If the symptoms are still persistent, immunotherapy may be needed to reduce the sensitivity.