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Ragweed, Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma

Ragweed Season 

August 15th marks the beginning of Ragweed Season. A stubborn, prolific plant, pollen released from ragweed is the airborne allergen most responsible for the onslaught of allergy symptoms. It is found along roadsides, vacant lots, fields and almost any other sunny spot. Ragweed blooms from mid-August to October and is most prevalent throughout the Northeast and Midwest, although some form of ragweed allergens are prevalent in all areas of the United States. Each ragweed plant produces one billion pollen grains per average season, and because they are especially small and light, can travel up to 400 miles.

So if you notice that you’re sneezing more, your eyes are tearing up and you’re reaching for the tissue box, you’re not alone. You likely are one of the 35.9 million Americans who suffer from seasonal rhinitis (hayfever), which is triggered by ragweed.

After being exposed to ragweed pollen, people with allergies will often experience sneezing, a runny nose, and swollen, itchy, watery eyes. The AAAAI reports that 80% of patients with seasonal allergies also experience sleep problems, which can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration and poor performance at school and work. Lost work and school days, medications and physician office visits related to allergic rhinitis total more than $3 billion annually in the United States.

Allergic Rhinitis
Often called "hay fever," allergic rhinitis is an irritation of the nose where the inside of the nose becomes inflamed after being exposed to an allergic trigger. It often is associated with asthma and sinusitis. Common symptoms are:

  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Children who have allergic rhinitis may have dark circles under their eyes
  • Children may use the palm of their hand to push the nose up in an attempt to relieve itching (which is known as the "allergic salute.")

Statistics

  • Over eight million visits to office-based physicians each year are attributed to allergic rhinitis. United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Advance Data 195. 1996.
  • Immunotherapy is ultimately successful in up to 90% of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis, and in 70 to 80% with perennial allergic rhinitis. Fireman, P. "The Most Common Allergy: Allergic Rhinitis." The Allergy Report 1998; Discover Magazine (March 1998) S-13-14.
  • It is estimated that in 1998, increased absenteeism and reduced productivity due to allergies cost U.S. companies more than $250 million. Hewitt Associates LLC. The Effects of Allergies in the Workplace. 1998.

Asthma
Asthma is an ongoing disease that inflames the airways, making it difficult to breathe. It can be tricky to diagnose because it often is mistaken for other respiratory disorders, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Key symptoms of asthma are:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Young children may complain that their chests "hurt" or "feel funny," or they may slow down when playing and become easily irritated.

Statistics

  • More than 17 million Americans are currently estimated to have asthma. United States. Centers for Disease Control. "Forecasted State-Specific estimates of Self-Reported Asthma Prevalence—1998." Morbidity and Mortality. (Dec. 4, 1998) 47:1022-1025.
  • Asthma affects more than 4.8 million children under the age of 18. "ATS Update: Future directions for research on diseases of the lung." American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. (1998) 158:320-334.
  • There are more than 5,300 deaths from asthma annually. United States. Centers for Disease Control. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Report. (1997) Vol. 47, No. 4.

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