Ragweed seems to be on steroids this fall. It’s growing in greater abundance, and contributing to a rise in allergies and an epidemic of new patients being seen by doctors. The explanation is simple. Ragweed and other weeds are thriving like never before thanks to the warmer temperatures created by global warming, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
What that means is be prepared for a longer fall allergy season. Global warming increases carbon dioxide which acts like “Miracle-gro” for ragweed, researchers have found. Ragweed that can grow longer, bigger and with a 60-90 percent greater pollen production spells nothing but misery for 36 million Americans with fall allergies.
Three out of four Americans with allergies are allergic to ragweed. About a third of those with ragweed allergy experience additional suffering in the form of oral allergy syndrome (OAS), an itching, tingling, burning or swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or mouth which results from a cross reaction between the protein in certain raw foods. Eating banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, zucchini and sunflower seeds are some of the foods that can cause OAS.
An estimated 3.8 million days of work and school are missed due to seasonal allergies. Symptoms are similar to those of the common cold but without a fever, muscle aches or yellow mucous. Nasal drainage from allergies stays clear.
Fall allergies usually last from mid-August to the first frost. Many areas are experiencing that first frost much later than in the past. Here are some tips for coping until that first cold snap:
•Limit your exposure by keeping your windows shut in both your house and car. Avoid prolonged exposure outside between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. when allergen levels are at their highest. Shower and change after being outside to remove allergens that tend to stick to hair and clothes. Monitor pollen levels for your area through the National Allergy Bureau.
•Start taking your medication 10-14 days before symptoms appear. Nasal steroids, antihistamines, decongestants and eye drops are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
•Schedule a doctor’s appointment if medications and sprays aren’t working. Allergy shots that reduce your sensitivity are another option.
•Use a Neti Pot regularly to clean the sinuses and clear the head of congestion. A Neti Pot is a small ceramic pot used to pour warm saline solution through the sinus passages.
•Have air ducts in your home cleaned before turning on the furnace for the first time and use a HEPA filter in your heating system to filter out molds, pollens and other allergens.