Allergy seasons never seem to end, and even with summer still in full swing, the most common fall pollen allergen is emerging: ragweed.
Officials with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases say ragweed is “the main culprit among weeds.”
“Each spring, summer and fall, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species,” according to NIAID. “Most of the pollens that cause allergic reactions come from trees, weeds and grasses.”
MMC officials say ragweed allergies usually begin in August and can last into September and October.
Dr. Chuka Ifeayni, an ear, nose and throat specialist, says avoidance of triggers is the best prevention.
“Usually pollen counts are going to be at their highest in the mornings, so try to avoid outdoor activities in the mornings, such as between 7 and 10 a.m.,” he said. “It drops down after a rain but it quickly comes back up.”
He says there are many different medications to treat allergies, and the first thing people want to go to is the antihistamines over the counter. He says while those work to block the histamines, which start the symptoms, it doesn’t help with the nasal congestion. He recommends nasal sprays such as Flonase, Rhinocourt or Nasacourt. He says these all basically do the same thing, but each patient is different.
“The main thing is you have to use it on a daily basis throughout your season for it to work,” he said. “It’s not a medication that’s going to work immediately. You have to use it everyday for two or three weeks before you can see an effect. Using these nasal sprays are actually more effective.”
He says another important thing to consider is the year round allergies related to molds, animal dander and dust. He says sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether a person suffers from seasonal allergies or if they are year round. He says if a patient suffers from allergies all year long, then there may be something in their home contributing to it.
It’s a good idea to purchase a dehumidifier for rooms such as the bathroom, as those are moist areas conducive to mold. Ifeayni tells his patients to keep their bathrooms clean, especially their tubs and showers.
Keeping the filters changed regularly in their HVAC units helps keep indoor allergens down as well, he said. Ifeayni says the High Efficiency Particulate Air filters, or HEPA filters, will help keep down particulate matter in the air.
During the cooler, wetter seasons, he says it’s a good practice to keep tree leaves, grass clippings and weeding debris away from the house, as piles of those can be breeding grounds for molds.
“One thing people don’t think about too, is if you have a lot of dense landscaping around your house, with leaves falling and damp, decaying material, that’s a place where mold is really going to grow,” he said.
When people get the first twinge of allergies, Ifeanyi says the body produces histamines, which swell the blood vessels, for instance, causing the nasal passages to swell up. Histamines can also squeeze the smaller blood vessels in the lungs, causing the wheezing from which many may suffer.
Ifeayni says following these simple things can bring allergy sufferers everywhere a little bit of relief whether the allergies are seasonal or all year round.