Another battle against sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and congestion is going on right now for the estimated 36 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. August 15 marked the unofficial beginning of ragweed season. Ragweed is the number one cause of fall allergies and has many Sarasota residents sniffling and sneezing right now, according to Dr Eva Berkes and Dr. Michele Henson, allergists at the Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center in Sarasota, Florida.
“In addition to having a negative effect on your quality of life, uncontrolled symptoms can lead to more serious medical conditions,” says allergist/immunologist Dr. Berkes. “Without proper management, your sniffle or sneeze can develop into asthma or sinusitis.”
Ragweed is common in most regions of the United States from mid-August to November. Each plant produces 1 billion pollen grains in an average season, and because the grains can travel up to 400 miles with the help of the wind, the pollen is very difficult to avoid.
Many individuals with ragweed allergy also have symptoms while eating certain fresh fruits and vegetables. Known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), it can also cause itchiness and mild swelling around the mouth. Common foods that cause OAS in ragweed-allergic people include bananas, cucumbers, zucchinis and melons. According to Dr. Henson, an expert in food allergy, recent research shows patients who receive pollen-based allergy shots, known as immunotherapy, may have significant improvement in oral allergy symptoms.
Treatment for ragweed allergy includes allergy shots, which are effective in up to 90 percent of patients. Some easy steps individuals can take to limit exposure and reduce symptoms are:
Keep your windows closed at night and use air conditioning instead.
Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold counts are reported to be high.
Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves because it stirs up pollen and molds.
Avoid hanging sheets, towels or clothes outside to dry.
Check your area’s pollen and mold levels from the National Allergy Bureau at www.aaaai.org/nab.
Take a shower before bed to wash pollen from your hair and face to prevent it from ending up on your pillow.
If allergies are having a negative affect on your day to day activities, visit Dr. Berkes or Dr. Henson for help managing your symptoms