Surviving Ragweed Allergies: 3 Tips for Fall Allergy Season

ragweed allergies

If Ragweed Allergies Have You Reaching For Tissues, These Tips Are For You!

Ragweed allergy season is upon us, a time of year many people celebrate by incessant sneezing. Fall allergy season is ragweed pollen’s time to shine, and if you’re one of the many seasonal allergy sufferers reaching for the tissues this fall, ragweed allergies may well be the source. 

If you have ragweed allergies and you inhale some of this pollen or let it hitch a ride back home with you on your clothes or hair, it can trigger an allergic reaction. While it’s hard to avoid ragweed altogether, there are steps you can take to mitigate your symptoms.

When Is Ragweed Allergy Season?

Ragweed releases its pollen between August and November, making late summer through early fall a sneezy ordeal for those who suffer from ragweed allergies. Because it blooms in August, you can expect ragweed pollen counts to peak in September and taper off through the rest of the season. 

As allergy sufferers know all too well, the best way to reduce allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergen—but ragweed pollen will not be cast aside so easily. Ragweed grows in open, sunny spaces all over North America (except for Alaska), with pollen so light that it can float easily through the air, potentially hundreds of miles from its point of origin. A single ragweed plant can produce 1 billion grains of pollen, causing allergy symptoms in about 15% of the population until the first frost arrives and kills the plant. 

What Causes Ragweed Allergies?

Ragweed pollen allergies are triggered when your immune system misidentifies ragweed pollen as a threat. When your immune system attempts to protect your body from the pollen, which is actually harmless, your body starts producing chemicals to fight off the danger. Ironically, your body’s efforts to protect you from ragweed pollen actually give you ragweed allergy symptoms.

Ragweed Allergy Symptoms:

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Scratchy throat
  • Sinus pressure (and the resulting facial pain)
  • Swelling or bluish tint in the skin beneath the eyes
  • Reduced sense of taste or smell
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Hives 

Like other pollen allergies, ragweed pollen allergies can also cause hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and inflammation of the nasal passages. And, if you have asthma, ragweed pollen can cause asthma symptoms to flare up. If you have allergic asthma, use your inhaler when you notice symptoms, and seek immediate medical assistance if your asthma symptoms are severe.

Top 3 Tips for Surviving Ragweed Allergy Season

Now that you know your enemy as far as fall allergies are concerned, here’s how you can keep your exposure to ragweed pollen to a minimum during ragweed allergy season.

1: Minimize Your Exposure to Ragweed 

  • Keep an eye on the pollen forecast to stay informed on the concentration of ragweed and other allergens in your area.
  • Stay inside in the mornings if you can, since ragweed pollen peaks in the morning. The best time to enjoy time outdoors is late afternoon and after it rains.

2: Don’t Bring Ragweed Pollen Home With You

Ragweed allergy defense also includes not allowing the enemy past your gates. Keep ragweed (and other allergens) out by taking these steps.

  • Keep your doors and windows closed.
  • Leave your shoes at the door.
  • Change clothes after you come in from being outside.
  • Keep your hair covered or tied back when you’re outside, and wash it at night to get all of the ragweed pollen that sneaks inside on your locks.

3: Avoid These Plants and Foods if You Have Ragweed Allergies

If you have ragweed allergies, you may develop allergy symptoms when exposed to plants that are closely related to ragweed. If you’re allergic to ragweed pollen, avoid these plants too—and don’t plant them in your garden!

  • Burweed marsh elder
  • Eupatorium
  • Groundsel bush
  • Mugwort
  • Rabbit brush
  • Sunflowers
  • Sage

If you have Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS), ragweed might even cause ragweed allergies to flare up when you eat certain foods containing proteins that are similar to those found in ragweed pollen. If you have ragweed allergies, these foods may trigger allergic reactions too:

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupes
  • Chamomile
  • Cucumber
  • Echinacea
  • Honeydew melon
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

For most people, allergic reactions following exposure to plants and foods that trigger ragweed allergies cause your mouth to get itchy. In rarer cases, or if you have Oral Allergy Syndrome, plants and foods that trigger ragweed allergies can be much more serious, and in some cases may even cause anaphylaxis. If you experience a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis, seek medical attention immediately.

Get Relief for Symptoms: Treatment for Ragweed Allergies

If you’ve done your best to avoid ragweed pollen and you’re still experiencing ragweed allergy symptoms, certain medications may provide relief. Ragweed allergy symptoms are usually treated with antihistamines, decongestants, or steroid nose sprays.

  • Nasal corticosteroids (nasal sprays for inflammation) may alleviate symptoms of congestion and inhibit allergic reactions.
  • Antihistamines can help alleviate symptoms like runny noses, sneezing, and itchy eyes.
  • Decongestants can help with congestion by shrinking swollen nasal passages.

If over-the-counter medication doesn’t provide you relief from ragweed allergies, talk to your doctor about exploring other treatment options, like immunotherapy.


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