Facts About Ragweed Allergy
What is Ragweed Allergy ?
RAGWEED ALLERGY is one of the most common mass weed allergies in the world and particularly common in the United States, where it affects 30 to 40 million people. For these people affected by Ragweed allergy, the period from late spring up to the end of summer is often a difficult period as during this period they often begin to have a variable degree of symptoms of Ragweed Allergy, often labeled HAY FEVER, which can adversely affect the quality of life and even lead to absence from work, apart from requiring medical attention and treatment.
What is the cause of Ragweed Allergy ?
Ragweed Allergy is caused by contact of the body with the pollens of the Ragweed plants.
RAGWEED PLANTS are one of the most common and widespread weeds especially in the United States. They are also known as ‘bitterweed’ or ‘bloodweed’. There are 41 species of Ragweed with the botanical name ‘Ambrosia’, spread all over the world. It is very sturdy plant, difficult to control – it will grow back even if the whole plant is cut an inch above the ground. Each plant produces up to a billion pollens during the summer, which are blown up by dry winds and can travel up to 40 miles from their origin, bringing a wide area of human inhabitation under their influence. This plant grows widely in open uncultivated areas, roadsides and fields, equally affecting rural and urban areas.
Ragweed pollens contain certain proteins that cause allergic reactions in the human body. The major culprit has been identified as a glycosylated protein termed ‘Amb a 1’ though some other calcium-binding proteins and profiling are also contained in those pollens.
When does Ragweed Allergy occur?
Ragweed Allergy can occur from JULY to OCTOBER, but the worst duration is after 15th August. It is the period during which the plants produce pollen. The warm and dry winds help them spread widely.
What are the symptoms of Ragweed allergy?
Ragweed Allergy primarily affects those parts of the body that are most likely to come in contact with the ragweed pollens.
Breathing air containing ragweed pollen is the most common way of contact with them, and the most common manifestation therefore is ALLERGIC RHINITIS– Nasal irritation with sneezing, stuffy and running nose and nasal block.
As the local nasal inflammation worsens, it begins to cause more severe symptoms. When it blocks the sinus openings and passages within nose, it can lead to ALLERGIC SINUSITIS, which in turn can cause a feeling of heaviness in forehead or more severe headaches. Later, there can even be infections, making it much worse. More severe inflammation can further lead to a post nasal drip which can lead to sore throat and coughing.
The other part of the body can gets most frequently affected by the allergic Ragweed pollens are the eyes. The conjunctiva is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and can react to even a very small dose of pollens. The result is ALLERGIC CONJUNCTIVITIS – itching of eyes along with reddishness and sometimes even swelling.
In case of recurrent symptoms and worsening, more severe symptoms can begin to develop. Worsening of nasal allergy or a heavy dose of Ragweed pollen exposure can lead to breathing difficulties that simulate Asthma. ALLERGIC ASTHMA during summer months between August to October every year with symptom free periods in between is highly suggestive of Ragweed Allergy manifesting as Asthma. Sometimes, Ragweed allergy can worsen an already existing Asthma, making it important for Asthma patients with Ragweed allergy to be doubly cautious.
Worsening of symptoms can lead to Fever, Loss of smell and taste, Loss of appetite and even some degree of prostration. Sleep disturbances are also common, and recurrent sleep deprivation can cause various degrees of depression.
Treatment of Ragweed Allergy ?
There is no cure for Ragweed Allergy. Efforts to cleanse large areas from Ragweed infestation have not been very successful so far. This leaves affected individuals to devise their own strategy to deal with the recurrent problem every year.
Important precautions include remaining indoors, and avoiding venturing into the outdoors during the peak allergy months. Simple measures like keeping windows of house as well as car closed, avoiding drying of linen and towels in the open, taking a shower to get rid of the pollens after yard work or outdoor visits and avoiding visiting heavily infested areas is often helpful.
For those who are already allergic to Ragweed and live in affected areas, taking over-the counter antihistamines can offer some relief. However, it is generally preferable to prepare for the allergic season in advance with the help of your physician, and have a stock of anti-allergic medication with you beforehand. In some cases, Immunotherapy can also be useful, but it is a decision best left to your physician.