According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 23 million people in the United States are affected by ragweed allergies. People often get this allergy, also known as hay fever, from the pollen of ragweed plants. Of all the types of weed allergies, ragweed is the most common.
In fact, 75% of Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants are allergic to ragweed. A ragweed is a flowering plant that belongs to the genus Ambrosia and to the aster family, or the daisy family. The flowering plant contains tiny yellow-green flowers and is found in fields and roadsides throughout the country.
Ragweed is especially common in the East and Midwest, which makes the state of Illinois a prime target for the problematic weed. If you think you are allergic to ragweed, here are four things you should know.
1. Know the Symptoms of Ragweed Allergies
Some of the most common symptoms of ragweed allergies include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Throat irritation
- Decreased sense of smell
- Coughing and/or wheezing
Some people with ragweed allergies may also have swollen, bluish skin beneath their eyes. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you are reacting to the pollen that comes from ragweed.
Those who suffer from allergies also experience other symptoms including sinusitis, lung infections, headaches, or nasal polyps. If you have asthma, symptoms associated with ragweed allergies could turn into an asthma attack.
2. Know the Season for Ragweed Allergies
If you have the above symptoms, you may wonder if you have a cold or other type of respiratory infection. The symptoms are often similar, so it can be hard to tell. One way to know is to recognize the season. Ragweed allergies are often a seasonal allergy, meaning they usually occur during a certain time of the year.
In most parts of the country, ragweed season begins toward the end of summer, usually in August, and extends until the first frost of the season, which occurs in October or November. While ragweed allergy season used to be pretty cut and dry, this is no longer the case, as some researchers say that allergy seasons have gotten longer.
Longer growing seasons, rising temperatures, and an increasing number of days with no frost on the ground are all contributors to the longer allergy seasons. According to a nonprofit organization, Climate Central, the growing season in Chicago has increased by almost two weeks since 1970.
Researchers from Climate Central also state that, across much of the country, the first frost of the fall is happening a week later and the last frost in the spring is happening a week earlier. So, if you are in late July or the end of November, and you have ragweed allergy symptoms, this is probably due to the longer allergy season.
3. Know How to Manage Ragweed Symptoms
Ragweed produces a lot of pollen. Even though each ragweed plant only lives for a season, in that time it can produce up to one billion pollen grains. In most areas, the amount of airborne pollen peaks between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Your symptoms may be further exacerbated when you have cooler temperatures at night and dry and warm temperatures during the day.
All of this combined can make it difficult to manage your ragweed allergy symptoms. One thing you should do every day is to check the pollen count. You can find this easily on the internet or in the newspaper. You may even be able to get your local allergy forecast, which can help you plan for the week.
When pollen counts are high, you should try to stay indoors. Other effective ways of managing your ragweed allergy symptoms include:
- Keeping the windows in your home and your car closed at all times
- Washing your clothes right away after being outside for long periods of time
- Taking a shower before bedtime and washing your hands after petting an animal that has spent time outdoors
Certain foods contain similar proteins to that of ragweed. This means you will want to stay away from foods that might trigger your symptoms. These foods include melons, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, and bananas. Chamomile tea can also bring on symptoms associated with ragweed allergies.
4. Know Who to Contact for Help
If you think you are allergic to ragweed but would like to get tested so that you know for sure, an allergist will be able to help. At Oak Brook Allergists, our team includes board-certified allergists who, with the help of a skin or blood test, can help you determine the cause of your symptoms. Our staff also consists of a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, and registered nurses trained to manage, treat, and reduce your allergy symptoms. Call us today to learn more and to ask any questions you have.