A seasonal allergy, commonly referred to as “hay fever” or allergic rhinitis, occurs during certain times of the year, usually fall or summer. Hay fever peaks during these times when plants release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants.
Studies show that 10 to 30 percent of Americans suffer from seasonal hay fever, and most of these cases are caused by ragweed, a plant belongs to genus Ambrosia. The maturing ragweed flowers release tiny grains of pollen into the air during fall. When the released pollen enters the human body, the immune system mistakenly treats the pollen as “invaders,” thereby releasing histamines to ward them off.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy throat
- Swollen eyelids
- Itchy eyes
Some individuals may also develop asthma symptoms, coughing, wheezing, and breathing issues.
- Minimizing exposure to seasonal allergens
- Airborne pollens are virtually impossible to avoid, but you can take some measures to minimize your contact with them:
- Minimize outdoor times when ragweed pollen counts are high.
- Wash your hands after you touch something outside.
- Clean or replace furnace and air conditioner filters frequently.
- Wear a dust mask while doing outdoor tasks such as gardening, cleaning the garage, etc.
- Avoid wearing “outdoor clothes” while inside the house.
Treating ragweed allergy
Allergy medications like antihistamines, decongestants and oral corticosteroids can help lessen the symptoms of temporary, season allergies. If your symptoms are significantly detracting from your quality of life, however, or if they endure for more than a few months a year, talk to an allergist about the possibility of immunotherapy—the only treatment that can actually change the underlying allergy (not just its symptoms). Immunotherapy is available through shots or, more safely and conveniently, through oral drops (sublingual immunotherapy) that can be administered at home.