July 19, 2021
Ragweed Allergies: Prevention, Symptoms, & Treatment
If the end of summer and early fall is the worst time of year for your allergies, you may have ragweed to blame. But you’re not alone! Nearly 60 million Americans suffer from allergies. While avoidance is a common tactic for allergy sufferers, ragweed can be hard to avoid.
Let’s go over some of the ways that you can reduce and manage your ragweed allergy symptoms and different treatment options available for ragweed allergies.
What is ragweed allergy?
Ragweed is a common plant that belongs to the genus Ambrosia and is notorious for triggering allergic reactions in many individuals. Ragweed primarily grows in disturbed areas, such as roadsides, fields, vacant lots, and gardens. It is a resilient plant that can take advantage of disturbed soil and compete effectively against other vegetation.
Ragweed allergy is one of the most prevalent seasonal allergies, affecting millions of people worldwide. Ragweed releases small, lightweight pollen grains into the air during late summer and early fall, typically from August to October. These pollen grains are highly allergenic and can be easily inhaled, causing the immune system to react and release histamines, leading to allergy symptoms. Compared to other plants, ragweed pollen is particularly potent and widespread, making it a significant allergen. It is estimated that a single ragweed plant can produce up to a billion pollen grains in a single season. Due to its high allergenicity and extensive dispersal, ragweed allergies can be quite severe, impacting daily activities and quality of life for those affected during the peak pollen season.
The unfortunate news about ragweed is that it’s going to be worse than usual in the coming years. Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could extend the ragweed season by a month or two.
When is ragweed allergy season?
Ragweed allergy season typically occurs during late summer and early fall, with the peak period varying depending on the region. In North America, ragweed season usually begins in August and extends through October, reaching its highest pollen levels in mid-September. This time frame coincides with the plant's flowering phase, during which it releases copious amounts of pollen into the air. Each ragweed plant produces a vast number of tiny pollen grains, which are easily carried by the wind over long distances. As a result, areas with significant ragweed populations can have substantial levels of airborne pollen, even in locations far away from the plant's immediate vicinity. You may not see the ragweed pollen in the air, but your body can react to even the smallest amounts.
Food to avoid with a ragweed allergy
Individuals with ragweed allergies may experience oral allergy syndrome (OAS), which is a condition where certain fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts can trigger allergic reactions due to cross-reactivity with ragweed pollen. To minimize the risk of OAS and related allergic reactions, it is essential for those with ragweed allergies to be cautious about consuming specific foods, including:
- Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)
- Sunflower seeds
- Chamomile tea
Oral allergy syndrome occurs because the proteins found in these foods are structurally similar to the proteins in ragweed pollen. When consumed, the immune system mistakes these proteins for ragweed pollen, triggering an allergic response. The reactions are typically limited to the mouth and throat, leading to itching, tingling, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and palate. In more severe cases, OAS can cause localized hives and throat discomfort.
Ragweed allergy prevention tips
To minimize the impact of ragweed allergies, here are some helpful prevention tips:
- Limit time outside when the pollen counts are high. Check your local forecast and pollen count everyday. We like the Pollen.com app. It’s super easy and you can easily add different cities to your radar. On high ragweed pollen count days, plan indoor activities like bowling, a museum, or watching a movie.
- Keep windows closed and use an air conditioner with a HEPA filter.
- Get rid of ragweed that might be growing in your yard.
- Wash your hair every day before bed to remove pollen and keep it out of your bed.
- Wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat when outside to keep ragweed pollen out of your eyes and off your hair.
- Don’t forget about your pets! Wipe off their paws and fur with a towel before letting them into the home. Also, keep pets off the bed and out of your bedroom.
- Vacuum at least once a week. A cordless vacuum will make this task much easier – and maybe even more fun.
Ragweed allergy treatments
Short-term ragweed allergy treatments
There are many things you can do to improve symptoms. Over-the-counter medications won’t solve the underlying issue but they will relieve your symptoms for 24 to 48 hours.
Saline Nasal Sprays and Rinses
Nasal saline sprays are available over-the-counter and involve spraying saline, or salt water, in your nostrils. Nasal saline rinses involve filling a bottle with water, putting a modified salt packet in the bottle, mixing it and rinsing out your nose.
Nasal antihistamines are nasal sprays that have antihistamines. Antihistamines are different from steroids, and usually work quite quickly to bring relief of symptoms. Some people note a bitter taste with nasal antihistamines. As with any medications, they have other potential side effects so one must discuss them with an allergist prior to use.
Oral antihistamines are pills that can help with allergy symptoms. They can help the nasal drainage and sneezing symptoms. However, they usually do not help nasal congestion, as nasal steroid sprays can.
Long-term ragweed allergy treatments
If you really want to tackle your ragweed allergies for good, the best thing to do is get an allergy test to confirm your allergy and start immunotherapy. Immunotherapy introduces small amounts of the allergen over time, letting your body build up a tolerance so it no longer sees it as a threat.
Allergy drops (sublingual immunotherapy)
Allergy drops are placed under the tongue daily and can be done at home, on your own terms. Allergy drops are equally as effective as allergy shots, and have no severe anaphylactic reactions reported, like sometimes happens with allergy shots. The typical length of treatment is three to five years for long lasting relief.
Allergy shots are performed on a regular basis (usually weekly or monthly) in the office as there is the potential of allergic reactions to them. Allergy shots introduce the body to the allergen and gradually build a tolerance to the allergen to train the immune system to not react.
Our ExACT Immunoplasty is our newest and quickest treatment. This innovative approach offers several advantages over traditional allergy treatments, such as allergy shots. ExACT requires just 3 injections over the span of eight weeks to achieve faster results. If you’re tired of dealing with ragweed allergies season after season, this treatment is for you.
Ragweed allergy symptoms:
Ragweed allergies bring on the typical hay fever allergy symptoms such as:
- Runny nose (Nasal drainage)
- Stuffy nose (Nasal congestion)
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth
In addition to the usual suspects of ragweed allergy symptoms, it’s also common for more severe ragweed allergy sufferers to experience:
Ragweed pollen can also aggravate asthma symptoms, leading to increased coughing and wheezing.
Inflammation and congestion in the nasal cavity from allergies often lead to headaches, especially around the face.
Allergens in the air, such as pollen, can irritate your throat when you breathe them in. If you breathe through your mouth because of a stuffy nose, especially while sleeping, the air flow also could dry out your throat and make it feel itchy. You can also develop an itchy or sore throat due to postnasal drip as an allergic reaction.
People Also Ask/FAQ
Which type of ragweed am I allergic to?
If you’re allergic to ragweed, it’s very common to be allergic to more than one type. There are seventeen types of ragweed, but only a few are responsible for allergy symptoms. Stay on top of your game and find out what ragweed is in your area!
The most common types of allergy-causing ragweed are:
- Common ragweed
- Giant ragweed
- Burweed marsh elder
- Rabbit brush
- Groundsel bush
How to get rid of ragweed allergies?
Getting rid of ragweed allergies involves a combination of short-term symptom relief and long-term management strategies. Short-term treatments include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays, which can help alleviate symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. However, it's important to note that these short-term solutions mainly provide symptomatic relief and do not address the root cause of the allergy. Long-term management is crucial to minimize allergic reactions and improve quality of life.
When do ragweed allergies start?
The exact timing of ragweed allergy season can vary depending on the geographic location and local climate conditions. To pinpoint the precise start of ragweed allergy season in a specific area, individuals can download our free allergy calendar. This resource will help you track seasonal changes, and anticipate when ragweed pollen is at its highest levels. By utilizing the allergy calendar, you can take proactive measures to manage their allergies, reduce exposure to allergens, and seek appropriate treatments to alleviate symptoms effectively.
How do you know if you have a ragweed allergy?
If you experience the symptoms above during the months of August through October it may suggest a possible allergy. However, to definitively diagnose a ragweed allergy and determine the specific allergens that trigger your symptoms, allergy testing is essential. Allergy testing can be conducted through prick tests or intradermal tests, where specific allergens, including ragweed pollen, are introduced to your body to observe the immune response. This testing can accurately identify your allergens and help healthcare professionals design a personalized treatment plan to manage your allergy effectively.
When are ragweed allergies the worst?
Ragweed allergies are typically the worst during late summer and early fall, with peak pollen levels occurring in mid-September.
What is the best thing to take for ragweed allergies?
For more effective and long-term relief, seeking long-term treatments are your best option at overcoming your ragweed allergy. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus we offer various long-term treatments tailored to each patient's specific needs. These may include allergy drops, allergy shots or ExACT Immunoplasty which can help desensitize the immune system to ragweed pollen and provide lasting relief. By addressing the underlying cause of the allergy, these long-term treatments offer significant improvements in symptoms and overall quality of life for individuals suffering from ragweed allergies.
Can ragweed affect you indoors?
Yes, ragweed can affect you indoors. While ragweed pollen is primarily an outdoor allergen, it can still find its way indoors through open windows, doors, and clothing. Additionally, if you spend time outdoors during the peak of ragweed season, you might carry the pollen indoors on your clothes and shoes. Once inside, the airborne pollen can linger and cause allergic reactions for those sensitive to ragweed allergens.
How does ragweed affect children?
The end of summer is already something every child dreads, but ragweed makes the back-to-school season a lot more difficult for some kids. Ragweed, like a large number of other allergens, causes cold-like symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and irritated eyes that parents attribute to their child being surrounded by more kids. It can be easy to confuse the typical cold symptoms kids usually get when they go back to school with ragweed allergy symptoms.
When determining if your child is allergic to ragweed, it’s always best to get an allergy test. But if your son or daughter seems to have a cold every time September rolls around, it’s safe to say that ragweed is a major suspect.
How Aspire Allergy & Sinus can help your ragweed allergy
As ragweed allergy season approaches, taking proactive steps to manage symptoms and prevent allergic reactions is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable autumn. By following the prevention tips mentioned in this blog, such as staying informed about local pollen counts, practicing allergen avoidance, and considering long-term treatments like allergen immunotherapy, individuals can significantly reduce the impact of ragweed allergies on their daily lives.
At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, our team of specialists is dedicated to providing comprehensive care and tailored treatment plans for those suffering from ragweed allergies. If you experience ragweed allergy symptoms, we are here to help. Book an appointment with Aspire Allergy & Sinus today and take the first step towards long-term relief and improved quality of life during this ragweed season. Don't let allergies hold you back; let us help you to breathe freely again and enjoy the beauty of the season!