From August to November, ragweed blooms and releases pollen—a very fine powder also made by trees, grasses, and flowers.
What are the symptoms of ragweed allergy?
Ragweed allergy symptoms include sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; itchy throat or inside of ears; hives; and swollen eyelids and itchy eyes. This is often called hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Some people also develop asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing.
People who are allergic to ragweed often feel a tingling or burning in their mouths after they eat cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, or bananas. These fruits can cause these symptoms at any time but especially during ragweed season. Also, sunflower seeds, chamomile tea, and honey can cause severe symptoms in some people who have ragweed allergy.
How is ragweed allergy diagnosed?
Your allergist will review your medical history, ask questions about your symptoms and allergens, and may test your blood and/or do skin testing. With skin testing, a small amount of a possible allergen is pricked or scratched into the skin. If you’re sensitive to an allergen, a small red lump appears on the skin.
How is ragweed allergy treated?
- Avoid or limit contact with ragweed pollen.
- Take medicine to relieve your symptoms. Some allergy medicines should be taken 1 to 2 weeks before ragweed season. Ask your allergist which medicine(s) you should take ahead of time.
- Get allergy shots, if they are recommended. Some people need them when they can’t avoid an allergen and need ragwood allergy treatment. The shots contain a tiny but increasing amount of the allergen you’re sensitive to. Over time, your body becomes used to the allergen and no longer reacts to it.
What medicines are used to treat hay fever symptoms?
This list gives a brief overview of medicines used to treat these symptoms. Talk to your allergist to find out which medicines are best for you. Your allergist is also the best person to help you decide which medicines you should begin before ragweed season.
Decongestant Clears a stuffy nose; available in pill, nasal (nose) drops or spray
Antihistamine Relieves hay fever symptoms; available in pill, liquid or nasal spray
Nasal corticosteroid Relieves hay fever symptoms; available in nasal spray
Montelukast Relieves hay fever symptoms; available in pill
How can I avoid or limit contact with ragweed pollen?
- Wash your hands often. Pollen can stick to your hands when you touch something outside or a pet, if it has been outside.
- Limit your time outdoors when ragweed counts are high.
- Wear a dust mask that people like carpenters use (found in hardware stores) when you need to do outdoor tasks such as cutting the grass or raking leaves.
- Don’t wear your outdoor work clothes in the house; they may have pollen on them.
- Clean and replace furnace and air conditioner filters often. Using HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters is recommended, which remove at least 99 percent of pollen, as well as animal dander, dust and other particles.
- Use a clothes dryer rather than outdoor clothes lines.
- If you take a vacation, choose places and times of the year to avoid high ragweed pollen counts.
(Adopted from American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)