Ragweed allergy is making people miserable

Pollen from ragweed peaks in mid-September

Barbara Hootman

Ragweed allergy is taking a toll on pollen sensitive people in the Western North Carolina Mountains. It started in mid-August and will run into November. Some 23 million Americans suffer from ragweed allergy every fall according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Symptoms of ragweed allergy include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headache, irritated eyes, and itchy throat. The allergy can irritate asthma symptoms which may lead to increased coughing and wheezing.

Treatments include antihistamines and other over the counter allergy medicines and for those severely sensitive to the weed, a trip to an allergist may be in order.

Ragweed pollen usually peaks around mid-September but it takes a hard frost to stop it totally.

“Although allergies feel like an assault from the environment, they are actually caused by an exaggerated immune response occurring in our own body,” Dr. Brad Rachman, Funtional Medicine-Holistic Health specialist said. “Instead of cursing the pollen or suppressing the symptoms with medication, we can focus on strategies which normalize the immune response. The herbs, Echinacea, Astragalus and Licorice contain compounds which dampen and correct the body’s response to allergens, thus addressing the root cause of allergies.”

Ruth Higgins, pharmacist and owner of HealthRidge Pharmacy in Black Mountain recommends starting early to control the symptoms of ragweed allergy.

“There are nasal sprays, homeopathic remedies that work well, and other over the counter products to prevent the release of histamine,” Higgins said.  “Once you have a full blown reaction to ragweed, then you need to start taking an antihistamine of which there are three that I usually recommend. Zyrtec, Allergra and Clariten are the top three that are the most effective.

"You have to experiment and find out which one works best for your symptoms. I usually recommend starting with Clariten because it is the least expensive and works for a lot of people. When the nose gets raw and red it means it is inflamed.  Usually a steroid product like Flonase nasal spray will provide relief. You want to follow dosage recommendations and not over use any nasal spray, because you can get a rebounding effect and make conditions worse.

“It seems that ragweed allergies started earlier this year, maybe due to the heat we’ve had, and the symptoms will last until frost.  Using the Neti Pot to wash the sinus cavities out is also effective and provides relief.  If the mucus is not clear, you need to see a doctor to prevent a sinus infection from developing.  Drink plenty of water to dilute the mucus and make breathing easier.”

Higgins said that allergies to ragweed and other weeds are especially hard on children.  It is more difficult to treat allergies at school than at home. The body, both for children and adults, works over time when an allergy attack is in progress.  Plenty of rest will help the body recoup.

Most television stations give a daily pollen forecasts as well as the Internet.  Make sure the pollen forecast you listen to takes the weather into consideration.  Rain is a relief for pollen sufferers because pollen can’t travel in the rain.

At home and in the car it is a good idea to keep the windows closed at all times. Air-conditioning is a friend of allergy sufferers.

Pollen can be tracked into your home and car on your clothes, in your hair and on a pet.  Change clothes after you have been outside for a long time, shower before going to bed and wash your hands after petting the dog or cat that has been outside.  A moist paper towel rubbed over an animal’s fur can help remove pollen.

Amanda Nichols, pharmacist and owner of Sunshine Pharmacy in Black Mountain said there have been a lot of people in with allergies coming into the pharmacy this season.

“I recommend nasal sprays such as Flonase or Nasacort over the counter first,” Nichols said. “They really help with sneezing, burning, and itching, and clogged nasal passages.  They are also topical nasal application versus taking a pill.  But we often recommend Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra.  I feel Allegra is the most effective of the three.  Another great option is anything with quercetin in it such as Gaia herbs Turmeric Supreme Allergy or just plain Quercetin.

“We get great results from the homeopathic remedies such as Sabadil or BioAllers Homeopathic treatments.  The only drawback with the homeopathic remedies is that you have to take them more often throughout the day to get good results.  There are plenty of options, but finding the right one can be specific to each person’s needs.”