Is Ragweed Allergy Making Your Asthma Worse?

Photo of a ragweed plant

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If you sneeze, have watery, itchy eyes and a runny nose as autumn draws near, you may have a ragweed allergy. August is the unofficial start of the ragweed allergy season. If hay fever and other seasonal allergy symptoms bother you, you may have a ragweed allergy.

Ragweed Allergy Basics

Beginning in the late summer and early fall, usually mid to late August, many Americans begin to suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms. Unfortunately almost no place in the United States is immune because ragweed can grow in almost anywhere. As a result, almost everyone in the U.S. is exposed to ragweed and the possibility of a ragweed allergy. Ragweed is commonly found along roadsides and vacant lots.

Symptoms

While not everyone exposed to ragweed will develop ragweed allergy, contact with the ragweed pollen will stimulate an immune system reaction in some people. When this occurs, you may develop a worsening of your asthma symptoms such as:

Additionally, you may develop other allergy symptoms, such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose, throat, and other allergic rhinitis symptoms

These symptoms can then result in:

  • Poor sleep and resulting fatigue
  • Loss of concentration
  • Decreased school or work performance

Who Is at Risk

While allergy testing can identify people allergic to ragweed pollen, most people who are allergic to plant pollen will also be allergic to ragweed pollen. As a result, if you begin to notice increased allergy symptoms as the ragweed season begins in August, chances are that you have a ragweed allergy.

What to Do If You Suspect Ragweed Allergy

While there is no cure for ragweed allergy, ragweed allergy can be managed so that you can decrease both the frequency and severity of your ragweed allergy symptoms. Consider the following to help decrease your ragweed exposure:

  • Avoid ragweed pollen: Because ragweed occurs nearly everywhere and it tends to occur in such large amounts from August to October, chances are this will be difficult. However, you can check out the pollen counts provided by the National Allergy Bureau and stay indoors when ragweed pollen counts are high. Additionally, keeping your windows closed and using your air conditioner will decrease your exposure to ragweed pollen. Finally, a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter may help remove some ragweed pollen from your environment.
  • Change location: While it is difficult to move away from ragweed pollen, a number of locations may provide you some relief. Many patients find that the Mountain West and living near the seashore where pollen counts are lower often translates to an improvement in symptoms.
  • Bathe your pets frequently: Your furry friend can track ragweed pollen into your home.
  • Shower nightly: By showering at night, you will avoiding transmitting ragweed pollen into your bed and increasing your overnight exposure.

Treatment

If avoiding ragweed pollen does not sufficiently prevent your ragweed allergy symptoms, you may consider one of the following treatments:

  • Nasal steroids like Flonase
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists
  • Allergen immunotherapy or "allergy shots"
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Article Sources
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  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Ragweed Allergy

  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Topic of the Month: August 2006: Ragweed, allergies and hay fever