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Ragweed Allergy

All About Ragweed Allergy

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Updated September 02, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ragweed Allergy

An example of a ragweed plant.

© Kansas Department of Agriculture
Those with ragweed allergy may not know the "how" or "why" behind their sniffles and sneezes, but they most certainly know the "when." Ragweed allergy can bring on impossible-to-ignore symptoms.

When Does Ragweed Pollinate?

Autumn brings to mind images of cooler weather, leaves changing color and kids going back to school. It may also bring images of nasal congestion, sneezing and boxes of nasal tissue for those of us suffering from ragweed allergy.

Ragweed pollen, which is released from ragweed mostly between August and October, is one of the most important causes of fall hay fever symptoms.

When Is it Pollen Highest?

Like most causes of pollen allergy, ragweed pollen is spread through the air and is too small to be seen with the naked eye. The pollen is highest during the morning hours, on windy days, or shortly after a rainstorm when the plant is drying out.

Where Is Ragweed Commonly Found?

Ragweed grows just about anywhere, especially in fields, along the side of highways, and in vacant lots. This weed is especially common in the Midwestern region and along the East Coast of the United States, but it can be found in many other parts of the world, including Europe and Hawaii.

What Are the Symptoms of Ragweed Allergy?

Ragweed allergy, similar to other pollen allergies, may include symptoms of allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and allergic asthma. Symptoms caused by ragweed pollen allergy would be expected to start during August and September and last until October or November, depending on the climate.

Ragweed and Food Allergy

Ragweed allergy can be related to certain food allergies, since ragweed pollen has similar proteins to certain fruits, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, cucumbers and bananas. People with ragweed allergy may notice itching and tingling of the mouth and throat after eating these fresh fruits, especially during ragweed season. This condition is termed the oral allergy syndrome, or fruit-pollen syndrome.

How Is Ragweed Allergy Treated?

Allergy shots and allergy drops have been well studied in the treatment of ragweed allergy, and are both known to be very effective. Speak to an allergist about what might be best for you.

How Can I Avoid Ragweed Pollen?

Unlike indoor allergens such as dust mites or pet dander, it is more difficult to avoid exposure to ragweed pollen, since it is present in the outdoor air. Here are some tips to minimize exposure:
  • Keep windows closed to prevent pollens from drifting into your home.

  • Minimize early morning activity when pollen is usually emitted -- between 5:00 and 10:00 a.m.

  • Keep your car windows closed when traveling.

  • Stay indoors when the pollen count is reported to be high, and on windy days when pollen may be present in higher amounts in the air.

  • Take a vacation to a more pollen-free area, such as the beach or an ocean cruise, during the height of the pollen season.

  • Machine dry bedding and clothing. Pollen may collect in laundry if it is hung outside to dry.

Sources:

Bousquet J, van Cauwenberge P, Khaltaev N. Allergic Rhinitis and Its Impact on Asthma. J Clin Allergy Immunol. 2001;108:S147-344.

Weber R. Ragweed. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2001;87:A4.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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