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Ragweed Season 2022: What to Know

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While many of us may associate spring as prime allergy season, ragweed pollen allergies peak in mid-September and typically last into late November. Each ragweed plant only lives for one season but can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains. These pollen grains float freely in the air and can collect on clothes, hair and skin. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 15% of people have an allergic reaction to ragweed pollen. The symptoms can make life downright miserable and can also aggravate asthma.

Who gets a ragweed allergy?

People with allergies have immune systems that react when they come in contact with allergens. When you are allergic to ragweed pollen and inhale it from the air, symptoms of rhinitis, or hay fever, can show up. If you have allergies to one type of pollen, you are likely to develop allergies to other types of pollen. If you have a ragweed allergy, you may also experience symptoms when you eat these foods:

  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cucumber
  • Honeydew
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini
  • Sunflower seeds

This is called oral allergy syndrome and occurs because your immune system confuses ragweed pollen with certain foods. Common OAS symptoms include itchy mouth, throat, tongue or face.

Symptoms of a ragweed allergy can be similar to those of a sinus infection. Most people experience:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Itchy or puffy eyes
  • Mucus in the throat (postnasal drip)

If you have severe allergies, ragweed might trigger asthma symptoms, headaches and congestion.

What can I do about it?

There is no cure for a ragweed pollen allergy, but there are ways to treat and manage it. Many over-the-counter medications work well to control symptoms. They can also help with eye, nose and asthma symptoms. Anti-inflammatory and antihistamine nose sprays may also help. For long-term relief, your doctor may recommend allergy shots. This involves giving injections of allergens in an increasing dose over time. They relieve symptoms for most people and can last for years to decades.

Your doctor may also perform a skin prick, or scratch test, to confirm your allergy. For this procedure, a small drop containing ragweed pollen is placed on your skin and then lightly pricked or scratched with a needle. If you are sensitive to ragweed, you will develop redness, swelling and itching at the test site within 15 minutes. Your doctor may take a blood test to see if you have the antibody to ragweed.

Although there is no cure for ragweed allergy, there are things you can do to manage your exposure and lessen symptoms. Stay indoors when the pollen count is high. If you do spend time outside, try to go out in the afternoons and evenings. Ragweed pollen peaks in the morning. If you spend a lot of time outside during peak pollen time, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests these tips:

  • Take your shoes off outside
  • Don’t wear your “outside” clothes to bed
  • Cover your hair when outside or wash it each night

With the right treatment, most people can expect to see major improvements in allergy symptoms. The allergy and immunology team at Ochsner can help develop an individualized plan for you.

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