I’ve heard it said that knowledge is power; therefore, educating our patients suffering from allergies is critical.
In the Chattanooga area, weed pollen usually begins to pollinate in August and continues until the first or second frost. Due to global warming, our seasons have gotten progressively longer, leading to a longer growing season and more prolonged exposure to pollen. Weed pollen is present through October and frequently persists into the first or second week of November.
Ragweed is the most common type of weed pollen during the fall and is one of the most common causes of allergic rhinitis in the US. It is found in all 50 states and Canada. Ragweed pollen can travel far. It has been found in the air 400 miles out to sea and two miles up in the atmosphere. A single ragweed plant can produce up to a billion pollen grains in one season, and these grains can be carried long distances by the wind. These facts help explain why weed allergy is so common.
Many people believe they are allergic to goldenrod because it is in full bloom at the same time weeds are pollinating, and it grows in similar locations as weeds. However, the goldenrod is a wildflower that is pollinated by insects. Its pollen is too heavy to be carried by the wind. Therefore, it is not the goldenrod that is the problem; it is weed pollen!
Dealing with Ragweed, and Weed Pollens During the Fall in Chattanooga
Management of weed pollen includes a three-pronged approach: avoidance measures, medications, and allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots, drops, or tablets).
Avoidance measures are laudable but challenging to accomplish. The ACAAI and other sources recommend the following strategies:
- Take your medications daily. Begin your medications BEFORE the pollen is extremely heavy.
- Continue your allergy shots. You may need to receive shots more frequently if you are experiencing breakthrough allergy symptoms.
- Know what you are allergic to and prepare for your season before it occurs.
- Keep windows closed during pollen season, especially during the day.
- To avoid pollen, know which pollen you are sensitive to, and then check pollen counts. Schedule an appointment with a board-certified allergist who is specially trained to test and manage allergies.
- In late summer and early fall, during the ragweed pollen season, levels are highest in the morning.
- Take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothing after working or playing outdoors.
- Wipe the coats of your animals who go outside during high pollen.
- Avoid chamomile tea. For people suffering from ragweed allergies, chamomile tea can increase the severity of allergy symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, headaches, and irritated eyes.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.
- Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry; pollen may cling to towels and sheets.
We may prescribe medication, such as antihistamines, nasal steroids, decongestants, anticholinergic/antihistamine nasal sprays, guaifenesin, eye drops, etc. These medications can help alleviate fall allergy symptoms but will not treat the root cause. Those with mild allergies may be able to control their symptoms with medication during the season and not need medication at all for the rest of the year.
Your allergist will help determine which medications are best for you and your symptoms.
Allergen Immunotherapy – Allergy Shots, Drops, and Tablets
Allergy shots have been used to treat allergic rhinitis or allergies for over 100 years. They are safe and effective and have been shown to prevent asthma in some cases. They are the most natural method for treating allergies. Allergy shots are the closest we have come to a cure for allergies.
Allergy drops have been shown to be effective for treating allergies but are not covered by health insurance and, therefore, an option that may not be affordable. FDA has approved a dissolvable tablet that has been shown to treat Ragweed allergy in subjects 12 and older effectively. However, it is only indicated for the treatment of ragweed and not the other weeds or pollen.
In summary, you don’t have to suffer from weed pollen allergies during the fall season. Instead, talk with your allergist and get tested and treated so you can live your best life in Chattanooga!
About Susan Raschal, D.O.
Dr. Raschal is a board-certified allergist specializing in adult, adolescent, and pediatric allergy, asthma and clinical immunology. She has provided relief from allergies in the Chattanooga area for over 20 years. Her professional special interests include eczema, asthma, food and pollen allergies.