What to Know About Ragweed Allergies
Ragweed is a soft-stemmed flowering plant that is common across the U.S. Although ragweed is abundant everywhere, it flourishes in areas that get lots of sunshine. Between spring and early fall, ragweed plants produce pollen grains that are transported by the wind. Depending on the specific location, ragweed may start spreading pollen as early as May and pollinate through December. However, the bulk of ragweed pollination is from July through October. Their hearty wind-driven pollen grains survive winters and can travel well over two hundred surface miles as well as up to 2 miles high.
Ragweed pollen is a common cause of seasonal allergies. Breathing in this pollen triggers an allergic response for many people. The human immune system is responsible for protecting the human body against dangerous substances, such as bacteria and viruses. However, the immune system of people who have ragweed allergies mistakenly sees the pollen as a harmful substance. This results in the immune system producing chemicals to fight against the ragweed pollen, despite it being harmless. This response causes the various irritating symptoms we find so annoying, such as runny noses, itchy eyes, and sneezing.
The symptoms of ragweed allergies may vary according to what time of year it is, the weather, and where you live. However, the most common symptoms include:
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Congestion or runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Wheezing or coughing
- Sinus pressure (and facial pain)
- Bluish-colored, swollen skin under the eyes
- Poor sleep
In some instances, ragweed pollen can also cause allergic eczema. This painful, itchy rash leads to blisters and small bumps on the skin. It may appear within 1-2 days after exposure to ragweed pollen. The rash may go away on its own in 2-3 weeks. However, other irritants, such as strong odors, air pollution, and tobacco smoke, can worsen the symptoms.
What Causes Ragweed Allergies?
Ragweed allergies are just an inappropriate response of the immune system to ragweed pollen. The immune system attempts to battle the ragweed pollen by releasing a chemical called histamine. This results in the various uncomfortable symptoms associated with seasonal allergies as the body tries to rid itself of the pollen.
People who suffer from other allergies are more susceptible to ragweed allergies. In other words, you are more likely to get a ragweed allergy if you are also allergic to:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- other kinds of pollen grains, like tree or grass pollen
- foods that cross-react with pollens, see Food-Pollen Cross-Reactors
Allergies may also have a genetic component. That means, if someone in your family is allergic to ragweed pollen, you would likely be too. Read more about Allergies Being Genetic.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Although a primary care physician can generally diagnose a ragweed allergy, they often recommend seeing a conventional allergist confirm their diagnosis. A conventional allergist will conduct a blood test and/or a skin prick test to determine a person’s reactions to certain allergens. The blood test is also called a RAST test or a radioallergosorbent test, which is a fancy way of saying it tests your blood for allergies. The skin prick test is also called a puncture or scratch test, and it is designed to check for immediate allergic reactions to as many as 50 different substances. Both of these tests are used to identify allergies to pollen, mold, pet dander, dust mites, and some foods. If you’re allergic to any substance tested through a skin prick test, you will develop itchiness, swelling, and redness at the spot within 15-20 minutes. Unfortunately, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), about 50-60 percent of all blood and skin prick tests yield some false results.
A holistic allergist also specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies and sensitivities. They will start the evaluation by asking about your symptoms, when they began, how long you have been experiencing them, and if your symptoms are more seasonal or worsen under certain conditions, time of year, or may be food-related. A holistic allergist will then test for allergies using a non-invasive technique that doesn’t require needles or pain. They will provide you with a detailed treatment plan after completing a comprehensive assessment to determine what may be triggering allergies or allergy-like symptoms in you or your children.
Conventional Ragweed Allergy Treatment
It is impossible to avoid ragweed pollen during certain times of the year. A conventional allergist will recommend different medications and treatments to help relieve your symptoms.
Over-the-counter medicines that may ease allergic symptoms include:
- Antihistamines, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin)
- Decongestants, like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Nasal corticosteroids, like mometasone (Nasonex) or fluticasone (Flonase)
- Medications that include a decongestant and antihistamine, such as Claritin-D and Actifed
If over-the-counter drugs are ineffective, a conventional medical doctor will recommend prescription drugs. Unfortunately, all drugs, even over-the-counter ones, can have harmful side effects and often become ineffective over time if taken continually.
A conventional allergist usually recommends allergy shots. Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy in which they inject the allergen directly into your body. The percentage of allergen in the allergy shot is increased over time. The hope is that this process will provoke a positive change in the immune system’s response to the allergen and thus help decrease the severity of allergic reactions. The usual course of treatment is a weekly shot for the first year of treatment and then twice a month for the second year and then monthly treatments for the next 3 to 5 years or longer.
Sublingual Allergy Treatments
Sublingual immunotherapies are sometimes used to help treat ragweed allergies. This treatment involves taking a pill containing the allergen, placing it under your tongue for a while, and swallowing it. This treatment may be just as effective as allergy shots but also takes just as long to be effective.
Around 55% of Americans suffer from allergies including ragweed and other seasonal allergies. A significant number of them do not find satisfactory relief from conventional medical allergy treatments. The good news is there are non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical holistic approaches to effectively and safely treat allergies.
Holistic Ragweed Allergy Treatments
Holistic allergists provide natural, painless testing techniques and treatments that are effective and results-oriented.
All holistic fields of medicine are aligned in their approach to treating the whole body, unlike conventional medicine, which is geared to treat acute symptoms with pharmaceuticals and thus has difficulty treating chronic problems Holistic medical doctors share the understanding that health conditions develop as a result of interference in the proper functioning of a person’s body caused by various forms of stress. That stress may be due to allergies or sensitivities to harmless substances; or may be due to stresses on the body from viruses or bacteria or cancer; or may be due to physical stresses such as broken bones, lacerations, or over-exertion; or due to emotional stressors or other factors. Holistic allergy treatments look to reduce the stress or interference specific allergens are triggering in specific organs within your body.
Although there are different holistic approaches to allergy testing and treatments, this article will focus on one of them as an example.
Advanced Allergy Therapeutics (AAT)
This technique offers a non-invasive, unique, and highly effective approach in treating seasonal, environmental, chemical, and food allergies including ragweed. AAT is a precision-based therapy that treats the body’s organ systems involved in reactive behavior. The worse your symptoms are is an indication of how badly an allergen affects that particular organ system in your body. In other words, if ragweed merely makes your nose itchy, ragweed is mildly stressing your respiratory organ system. On the other hand, if ragweed makes you miserable, makes your eyes and sinuses swell and you are unable to breathe or see clearly, then ragweed is severely stressing your respiratory organ system. This holistic approach is why AAT therapy can produce rapid, long-term results. The treatments are painless, there are no shots, no pills, and no avoidance. It is safe, effective, and gentle enough for infants, pregnant women, and seniors.
If you suffer from allergies, and you have been unsuccessful with allergy treatments or are looking for something different, St. Louis Allergy Relief Center treats allergies holistically without the use of pain or pills. We are an allergy wellness center specializing in natural treatments. We specialize in holistic, natural allergy treatments using Advanced Allergy Therapeutics (AAT). We provide you with a detailed treatment plan after completing a comprehensive assessment to determine environmental stressors that may be triggering allergies or allergy-like symptoms. Visit our website https://stlouisallergyrelief.com/ to learn more or call us at 314-384-9304.
We also deliver community workshops as well as a free monthly informational workshop on the first Thursday of every month at 5:45 pm in our Chesterfield clinic. Our free monthly workshop provides the public with information on our unique approach to allergy treatments and includes an opportunity to meet with our patients for a question and answer session. If you are interested in attending one of our free monthly workshops, please call our office at 314-384-9304 to reserve your space. These workshops are currently on hold due to COVID-19 and will resume when it is safe to do so.