The late summer season has brought an unwelcome guest for allergy sufferers: ragweed.
Ragweed is a flowering plant whose pollen causes up to 50% of all cases of pollen-related allergic rhinitis in North America, according to a peer-reviewed article in Swiss Medical Weekly. A single ragweed plant can produce nearly one billion pollen grains in a single season. The pollen is transported by the wind and has even been found two miles into the atmosphere and 400 miles out at sea.
As such, it can be difficult for allergy sufferers to avoid ragweed pollen. There are 17 different species of the plant in the United States and, while it is most common in the rural Midwest and the East, it is found throughout the country.
Ragweed season begins in August and lasts until mid-October. This year, ragweed pollen was detected in NYC as early as August 11th! Did it affect you?
Ragweed allergies occur when the body’s immune system mounts an overzealous response to the harmless grains of ragweed pollen. Immune cells release antibodies to the proteins found in ragweed pollen, which causes histamine to flow into the blood stream. Histamine causes symptoms that are very familiar to allergy sufferers – itching, sneezing, nasal congestion, disrupted sleep, hives, and red or puffy eyes. If the ragweed allergy is severe it can lead to chronic sinusitis or asthma.
Because it is so widespread it can be difficult to avoid ragweed pollen altogether, but here are a few tips to minimize exposure:
1. Stay indoors when pollen counts are at their highest (if possible). Pollen counts are typically higher in the morning and late afternoon. Downloading pollen tracker apps for cell phones and mobile devices allows allergy patients to know when counts will be at their highest and take extra measures to avoid it.
2. Keep windows closed. Use an air conditioner to cool your house instead – but first make sure the air conditioner’s filter is new and properly installed. A HEPA filter will help remove pollen from the air in your home.
3. Change your clothes after coming in from outside and, if possible, shower immediately and wash your hair to remove pollen.
4. Don’t dry your clothes on a line outside. The clothes will collect pollen that will then be transferred into your home.
5. Regularly wash your pets to remove accumulated pollen from their fur.
6. Have someone else take care of the yard work. Outdoor activities like mowing the lawn or raking leaves can stir up pollen. Avoid this by hiring someone to perform your outdoor chores (or cash in on a favor from a friend or neighbor).
If you’re interested in being tested for seasonal allergies or have questions about resources available to people with allergies, give us a call. Or, if you are looking for an allergist, we’d love to meet you. We can be reached at 212-729-1283 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.