With summer soon coming to an end, allergy sufferers may begin to feel relief from the diminishing tree and grass pollen. Unfortunately, the end of summer also means the start of ragweed season, which unofficially begins in mid-August.
For the nearly 36 million Americans who are affected by seasonal allergic rhinitis, or “hay fever,” this means an increased amount of sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), symptoms of allergic rhinitis can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and, therefore, it is important to properly prepare for ragweed season.
“For most of the country, ragweed starts blooming on August 15,” said Fuad M. Baroody, MD, FAAAAI, Chair of the AAAAI Rhinitis Committee. “Ragweed is a stubborn plant that can grow practically anywhere. It produces one billion grains per average season and, due to their lightweight texture, the grains can travel up to 400 miles. Ragweed is prevalent throughout the Northeast, South and Midwest from mid-August to October, making it a significant cause of fall allergies. Without proper diagnosis and management, your allergies could take a heavy toll on your quality of life.”
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis or “hay fever” include sneezing, runny noses and swollen, itchy, watery eyes. These symptoms can be so severe that they affect a person’s ability to function well at school or work. Nearly 80% of patients with seasonal allergies experience sleep problems, leading to fatigue, loss of concentration and poor performance at work and school. In fact, each year, more than 3.8 million days of work and school are missed due to the abundance of ragweed in the air which, in turn, causes seasonal allergies.
How to avoid exposure to ragweed
The best way to avoid feeling the symptoms of seasonal allergies is to avoid the triggers. To reduce exposure to ragweed, remember the following tips:
– Avoid areas where ragweed plants thrive, including ditches, vacant lots, roadsides, riverbanks and the edges of wooded areas.
– Keep windows closed during ragweed season to prevent pollen from drifting into your home. Use air conditioning, which cools, cleans and dries the air.
– Keep your car windows closed when traveling.
– Minimize outdoor activity when pollen counts are high.
– Take a shower after spending time outside; pollen can collect on your skin and hair.
– Minimize your exposure to other known allergens during ragweed season, since symptoms are the result of a cumulative effect of multiple allergens.
– Get up-to-date pollen information for your area by visiting the National Allergy Bureau (NAB), at aaaai/nab.
To help prepare for the arrival of ragweed, begin your allergy medications 10-14 days prior to your area’s peak ragweed season. By learning about the causes and symptoms of various forms of rhinitis, you will be better able to identify and avoid your triggers. An allergist/immunologist can assist by making an accurate diagnosis and developing an effective treatment plan for you.
When to see an allergy/asthma specialist
According to the AAAAI’s referral guidelines, patients should see an allergist/immunologist if they:
– Have prolonged or severe symptoms of rhinitis
– Have nasal polyps
– Have co-existing conditions such as asthma or recurrent sinusitis
– Have symptoms interfering with quality of life and/or ability to function
– Have limited their diet based upon perceived adverse reactions to foods or additives
– Experience itchy mouth from raw fruits or vegetables
– Have found medications to be ineffective or have had adverse reactions to medications
– Are a child with allergic rhinitis, because immunotherapy may potentially prevent the development of asthma
To find an allergist/immunologist in your area or to learn more about allergies and asthma, visit the AAAAI Web site at aaaai.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Allergy/immunology specialists are pediatric or internal medicine physicians who have elected an additional two years of training to become specialized in the treatment of asthma, allergy and immunologic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. The AAAAI serves as an advocate to the public by providing educational information through its Web site at aaaai.