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
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.