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Beware of Ragweed Allergies Approaching in Early Fall

Now that spring allergy victims are finally feeling relief from the diminishing tree and grass pollen, a new allergy season has begun creeping upon us. Ragweed pollen season has started, promising new challenges and frequent rounds of sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes for the more than 36 million Americans who have hay fever.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) ragweed, which starts blooming in mid-August in most of the country, makes up more than $3 billion each year in lost production, doctors visits, and medications.

Pollen released from ragweed is the airborne pollen allergen most responsible for late summer and early fall allergy symptoms. In an average season, each ragweed plant produces one billion pollen grains. The lightweight pollen grains can reach up to 400 miles away from their source making it possible for even people in urban areas to feel the impact when ragweed grows in vacant lots or blows in from surrounding areas. Ragweed is also commonly found in fields and along roadsides.

“Besides the negative effect on your quality of life, uncontrolled symptoms can lead to more serious medical conditions, such as sinusitis or asthma,” says Bruce S. Bochner, M.D., director of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Johns Hopkins.

Bochner urges allergy sufferers to consult with an allergist/immunologist before their symptoms get out of control. “Studies have shown that those who get prompt medical attention make fewer visits to emergency rooms and are better able to manage their symptoms,” he says.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Ragweed Season
Bochner and the AAAAI recommend the following tips to help you prepare:

Start taking the allergy medications recommended by your doctor 10 to 14 days before your area’s ragweed season begins. Be aware of any adverse reactions to these medications and notify your doctor of the reactions. Any adverse reactions may prevent you from using your medication successfully, so it is important to let your allergist know if you are able to take the medicine properly.

Talk with an allergist before taking any herbal supplements or other alternative therapies, as these treatments have the potential to cause serious side effects.

If over-the-counter or prescription medications don’t provide adequate relief, consider immunotherapy treatment, better known as allergy shots. Allergy shots increase tolerance to the proteins that make allergens offensive. In most cases, immunotherapy can safely and effectively ease the symptoms of ragweed allergies.

Continue allergy treatment for two to three weeks after the ragweed season, typically into October, to decrease nasal hyper-reactivity that may persist after pollen exposure has ended.

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