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Your Ragweed Survival Guide

Allergy image

August marks the start of allergy season for as many as one in five Americans who get hay fever, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis, each year. That’s because ragweed, the main cause of hay fever, begins blooming around mid-August. And in one day, each plant can produce a million pollen grains that can travel for miles from its source.

“Ragweed can bring on sneezing, stuffy nose, and watery eyes,” says allergist James Sublett, MD, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s public relations committee. “But there are lots of things people can do to find relief until the first freeze comes along.”

Beat symptoms to the punch.
Get a jump-start on ragweed allergy symptoms by taking allergy medications in advance, beginning the first or second week in August.

Beware of other allergies that increase symptoms.
If you’re allergic to dogs, cats, or dust mites, you may be even more susceptible to ragweed allergy. New research suggests these allergies “prime” the system, making hay fever even worse. The solution? Get treated for allergies year-round, which will make hay fever easier to tolerate.

Avoid peak exposure time.
To reduce exposure during peak pollen levels, avoid scheduling outdoor activities between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when ragweed pollen counts are highest.

Sidestep yard work.
People who have hay fever should avoid mowing the lawn and raking leaves, two activities that stir up pollen. If you must mow or rake, or are doing other outside activities, such as gardening, wear a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved N95 respirator mask.

Grab some shade(s).
Use style to your allergy advantage. Wear glasses or sunglasses that fit close to your face to keep pollen from irritating your eyes.

Steer clear of irritants.
Reduce your exposure to air pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, insecticides, fertilizers, gasoline fumes, fresh paint, and tar, which can worsen your symptoms.

Get tested.
Those who suspect they have hay fever or other allergies should be tested by an allergist – a doctor who is expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.


Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Spring/Summer 2011.