With summer soon coming to an end in the US, 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 and 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 ragweedThe 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.
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.(Source: American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology : August 2007)