Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Ragweed allergy sufferers, there’s a reason you might be sneezing right now: the pollen is near its peak.
“It starts usually August the 15th. It begins a gradual uphill climb, and then it peaks around Labor Day, and then after that it declines until the first frost hits, usually in mid-October, and then it’s gone,” says Dr. David Skoner, an allergist at Allegheny General Hospital.
People who are mildly allergic have symptoms at this peak. Those who are highly allergic will have sneezing and watery, itchy eyes from the beginning.
If you think you’re safe later in the fall, some people have lingering problems.
“Many people continue to be symptomatic for several months or weeks after that, because their nasal tissues get inflamed, and they get primed,” he warns.
Other irritants in the environment further this inflammation, even though it’s not the original cause.
While the lightweight pollen can be dampened by rain, it can travel great distances when it’s dry.
“When the rain clears out, and the sun comes out, and there’s a little wind, look out, because there will be ragweed everywhere,” he says. “From Ohio to Pennsylvania to New York, there’s a whole big band there that’s affected heavily by ragweed allergies.”
To avoid it, stay indoors, run the air conditioner, and be aware, clothing and pets can bring the pollen inside.
If you’re still miserable despite your best efforts to avoid ragweed pollen, over-the-counter antihistamines can help. Over-the counter decongestants can help, too, but be careful. Some of them can raise your blood pressure.
“The decongestants cause the blood vessels to constrict and that immediately takes away the congestion,” explains Dr. Skoner. “They can cause some side effects like the heart rate going up, maybe some insomnia.”
While it’s too late at this point for allergy shots to retrain your immune system for this season, Dr. Skoner says, “It’s not too late for 2014.”