While many people regard spring as prime pollen season, one type of pollen wreaks havoc in the late summer and fall. Ragweed pollen usually reaches peak levels in mid-September; this type of pollen can cause seasonal allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hay fever), which affects as many as 23 million Americans. As you can see on the map – our service area ranks medium to high for fall ragweed pollen.
Symptoms of ragweed allergy are similar to those of other pollen allergies:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Irritated eyes
- Itchy throat
Ragweed pollen can also aggravate asthma symptoms, leading to increased coughing and wheezing.
Management and Treatment
If you’re suffering from hay fever symptoms in the late summer or fall, consult an allergist about the possibility of a ragweed allergy. Your allergist can confirm a diagnosis with a skin test — applying a diluted allergen to the surface of your skin and waiting about 15 minutes to see if there is a reaction, such as a raised red bump that itches.
Ragweed allergies can be treated with antihistamines and other allergy medications. As with pollen season in the spring, you can try to get ahead of these allergies by starting your medication two weeks before you expect your symptoms to be at their worst. Ask your allergist whether any of your medications can be taken before symptoms develop.
Two immunotherapy options are available for severe cases of ragweed allergy:
- Allergy shots can help your body build resistance.
- Tablets that dissolve under your tongue are available by prescription. Pills must be started 12 weeks before the beginning of ragweed season.
Other tips include:
- To avoid pollen, know which you are sensitive to and then check pollen counts. In spring and summer, during tree and grass pollen season, levels are highest in the evening. In late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, levels are highest in the morning.
- Keep your windows closed at all times, both at home and in the car.
- Remember that pollen can be tracked into your home via your clothes, your hair or your pet — so change your clothes after being outside for long periods of time, shower before going to bed and wash your hands after petting an animal that has been outside.
- Keep relative humidity at bay with installation of a dehumidifier.
*Credits American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology