Common Questions About Ragweed Allergies
What is Ragweed?
Ragweed (Ambrosia) is an abundant plant infamous for its high pollen production which causes the allergic reaction called hay fever, or allergy rhinitis. Of all pollens, it's one of the top allergens.
Where is Ragweed Found?
Ragweed plants or shrubs commonly grow on dry grassy plains, along riverbanks, or in sandy, loose soil in empty lots. Ragweed exists in almost every U.S. state, especially in rural areas.
What does Ragweed Look Like?
Common ragweed is the most common type of ragweed, and averages about three feet in height. The plant has broad green leaves that resemble ferns and grows in clumps. Giant ragweed also causes hay fever; the plant can grow to fifteen feet.
How Common are the Allergens?
About one in five people develop allergies to hay fever. About three-quarters of the people who suffer from pollen allergies are allergic to ragweed. If a person is allergic to other pollens, chances are they will be allergic to ragweed. Ragweed is a wind-pollinating plant; sniffing the plant or the air containing the allergen can induce symptoms. Late summer is when the ragweed releases pollen.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of hay fever include: itchiness of the eyes, nose and throat; watery or swollen eyes; and sneezing. Sinus congestion can be painful, and affect your sensitivity to taste and smell. Skin beneath the eyes can become bluish and discolored. Developing asthma and eczema are possible. Sinusitis and difficulty sleeping are also effects. Poor sleep can result in drowsiness and difficulty focusing during the day. Many school and work days are missed owing to hay fever.
What causes the Reaction?
The immune system doesn't recognize the allergy, considers it foreign, and overreacts, producing an antibody. From then on, when you come into contact with the pollen you are allergic to, the antibodies send up histamines, or inflammatory substances, which promote the symptoms of hay fever.
How can the Allergy be Verified?
Your doctor can evaluate your medical and history and perform a skin test. During the skin test, you will be pricked with the ragweed allergen; if you are allergic, a reaction will appear. If you have had itchy reactions on the mouth from bananas, cantaloupe or chamomile tea, this may indicate an allergy to pollens in the plant's family.
How do I know if it's a Cold or an Allergy?
Hay fever is generally contracted from late August to October, when the ragweed plant is producing pollen. If you find yourself coming down with the symptoms listed above every year at this time, you may actually be allergic to the ragweed pollen. Secondly, fevers, chills, nausea, and muscle aches and pains are not usually associated with ragweed allergies. A cold will usually last for about ten days, but allergies last a few weeks.
What can I do to Prevent Ragweed Allergies?
Avoid areas where you might come into contact with ragweed. Stay indoors and turn on the air conditioning on. Use a nasal spray or eye drops as needed to control symptoms.
Photo Credit: Sunkmanitu