Considered the most allergenic of all pollens, ragweed pops up throughout the East and Midwest starting in mid-August. One plant alone can produce up to one billion pollen grains, and each grain can travel more than 100 miles.
One in 10 Americans is affected by the sniffling, sneezing and itching of ragweed allergies. Dr. Steven McEldowney of Allergy and Asthma Care of Blakeney is an allergist, a doctor who specializes in treating people with hay fever, as well as asthma and other allergies. Dr. McEldowney and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) suggest those who suffer from hay fever follow these six steps for relief:
- Get a jump start – Mark your calendar to remind you to take medication before ragweed allergy symptoms start. August is when the plant blooms in most of the country, but it’s a little later in the South.
- Keep the pollen outside out – Ragweed travels with the wind, so close windows in your house and car.
- Come clean – After spending time outdoors, shower, change and wash your clothes. Clean your nasal passages, too, by using a salt water rinse.
- Mask your misery – Wear a face mask when you garden or mow the lawn. Better yet, assign those tasks to family members who don’t suffer from hay fever.
- Consider a cure – If non-prescription medication isn’t doing the trick, it may be time to see an allergist who can provide more effective treatment. One option is immunotherapy – allergy shots. The treatment involves regular injections with pollen allergens. Immunotherapy can significantly lessen or get rid of nasal and eye allergy symptoms altogether. “Allergy shots can not only reduce allergy symptoms and medication use, it can prevent the development of asthma and the development of other allergies,” said allergist Dr. McEldowney.
- Don’t let up too soon – Because the nasal and eye symptoms associated with ragweed allergies can linger after the pollen can no longer be detected in the air, don’t stop your allergy medication immediately.