By Chrystle Fiedler
SUMMER IS OVER, and fall is around the
corner, but you’re still sneezing. Shouldn’t
your allergies be over by now? Not if you have
hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis.
The truth is that while trees are usually
done pollinating by late spring, grains of pollen from plants belonging to the genus
Ambrosia, or what is known as ragweed, are at
peak levels right now, making you miserable.
Up to 30 percent of Americans suffer from
hay fever or allergic rhinitis, resulting in
symptoms such as sneezing; coughing; stuffy
or runny nose; watery eyes; itchy ears, eyes
and/or throat; and dark circles under the eyes.
Why is ragweed such a problem?
“Ragweed is the major fall pollen aller-
gen,” says Dr. Martha White, the research
director at the Institute for Asthma & Allergy
in Wheaton, Maryland, and a practicing aller-
gist from the American College of Allergy,
Asthma & Immunology. “That’s because rag-
weed pollinates for six weeks, while the other
weeds only pollinate for a week or two.”
Hotter temperatures and pollution make
ragweed season even more intolerable. The
higher the pollen counts where you live, the
worse you’ll feel (see “Checking the local pol-
len count”). “Ragweed allergy really affects
quality of life,” says Dr. Thomas Casale, the
executive vice president of the American
Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
just approved Nasacort for OTC use. Used
daily, it helps to stop the allergic reaction. Use
after nasal washing with a neti pot (a small
nasal pot) and a saline mixture.
Nasalcrom nasal spray. Available OTC, it
helps prevent symptoms. Use before exposure.
Decongestants. Available in nasal drops,
spray or pill form, these clear congestion. Side
effects may include excitability and insomnia.
“It decreases work and school productivity
How ragweed allergy develops
and increases absenteeism.”
One of the biggest reasons is because
symptoms like congestion keep you awake.
“You wake up feeling tired and irritable and
aren’t able to concentrate as well,” says Casale,
who is a professor of medicine at the Univer-
sity of South Florida, and a Costco member.
If you are already allergic to mold, dust or
animals, you’re more likely to have a ragweed
allergy. Ragweed allergy runs in the family, so
if your parents or siblings are allergic to plant
pollen, chances are you will be too.
When ragweed pollen enters the body,
the immune system reacts to it as a threat and
immune cells make antibodies. The next time
you’re exposed, these same antibodies trigger
mast cells all over the body to release histamines that cause allergy symptoms.
Seeing your M.D.
The good news is that there are plenty of
options for treating hay fever. “You don’t have
to accept a life with a miserable nose,” says
White. “There’s actually something you can
do about it.”
Start by seeing your doctor, who will
review your medical history, ask questions
about your symptoms and allergens, and
decide on a treatment plan. If you do have
allergies, your doctor can prescribe medica-
tion and nasal sprays, including the following,
to help relieve your symptoms.
Antihistamines. These help to block
symptoms. Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines (such as
Claritin and Zyrtec) are available.
Nasal corticosteroid nasal sprays. The
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
NEED MORE INFO?
Asthma and Allergy Foundation
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma
American College of Allergy, Asthma
Treating your hay fever
effectively right now
THE POLLEN COUNT is the number
of grains of pollen in the air over a
24-hour time period. Ragweed pollen
is usually highest between 10 a.m.
and 3 p.m., depending upon the
weather. To check the ragweed pollen counts in your area:
■ Visit the American Academy of
Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
(AAAAI) website’s national allergy
bureau for accurate pollen counts in
pollen.aaaai.org on your
iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry or Android
to download the AAAAI pollen-count
app on your home screen.
■ Check the weather section of
your local newspaper.
■ Go to a weather information
website and enter your ZIP code. C
Checking the local
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