Summer Allergies – Nothing to Sneeze At

With spring allergies out of the way, many people are sighing with relief. Others are restocking their antihistamines for round two: summer allergies. In certain places, summer can be more trouble than spring. There are a handful of plants that pose the most serious threat to allergy prone individuals and unfortunately, these dastardly allergen-villains can travel far and wide, making prevention of exposure difficult. However, there are several ways to reduce the amount of pollen you come in contact with as well as ways to boost your immune system for optimal defense.

Problems

  • Ragweed: This weed is by far the most prevalent of all the allergenic summer varieties. It typically reaches the apex of its proliferation between July and October and is generally found in the Midwest, Eastern, and Southern states. However, ragweed is notorious for its extensive transportation via wind currents.The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states the distance that ragweed has been known to travel by air as 400 miles out to sea, and two miles up in the atmosphere. Although the majority ends up falling close to its source, the airborne pollen can cause serious problems to those near enough to inhale it.
  • Pigweed: In late summer to early autumn, a resilient pestilence known as pigweed causes problems for farmers and allergy-susceptible residents nearby. Found in agricultural fields and recently disturbed soils, pigweed is fast becoming more than just an allergenic issue, but also a widespread threat to agricultural efforts.ABC News reports the recent explosion of pigweed growth in the fields of the South. Despite farmers’ best efforts to contain the expanding population with pesticides, the pigweed began to adapt to the chemical attacks and learned how to flourish anyways. Not only are they incapable of completely eradicating it, but pigweed kills basically every plant it comes into contact with. Because of its widespread nature, pigweed is becoming an ever pervasive allergy threat to communities near farms.
  • Sagebrush, Wormwood: Second only to ragweed and grasses, sagebrush (also known as wormwood) is the most significant cause of hay fever. It releases inordinately large quantities of pollen from mid to late summer through the fall and is ranked by webmd.com as a severe allergen.However, it is primarily located in the Western United States and does not travel nearly as far as ragweed. Also, because its existence is so vital to the survival of the Sage Grouse, eliminating the weed would do more harm than good.

Health Risks

Exposure to these pollens can cause mild allergic reactions for susceptible individuals. Symptoms often include runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing, itchy eyes and nose, and dark circles under the eyes.

Those with asthma may experience attacks triggered by the allergens, usually at a higher severity. Prolonged exposure under these circumstances can hospitalize someone with asthma if their condition becomes critical.

Severe allergic attacks can result in localized swelling, dizziness, nausea, and shock — whether the individual has asthma or not.

Prevention

There are several ways you can prevent or reduce exposure to harmful allergens in the air, or at least prevent risk of attacks.

For grasses, taking care of the lawn prior to its pollen season will greatly reduce the amount released in the air when the time comes. This includes cutting the grass early and watering often. If you do mow the grass during periods of high-pollination, wear a face mask to protect against breathing the pollen.

When you know pollination is reaching its apex, try to limit time you spend outdoors. Hiring caretakers to mow your lawn, exercising your pets indoors, and working out in the house are great ways to reduce the amount of time you are exposed to the elements.

A weak immune system is the primary reason allergy attacks increase in severity. Taking vitamins and staying well hydrated is an excellent way to boost your immune system.

Keeping your house clean will significantly reduce the propagation of mold or other allergenic substances within the home. Dust and vacuum regularly and wash all linens at least once a week. Replace old air filters and check corners of the ceiling for mold or cobwebs. In general, molds thrive in warm, humid climates; keeping your house cool and dry will protect against this.

If it is necessary to be outside for an extended period of time, monitor current pollen count levels in your area prior to leaving the house. When you come back inside, change clothes immediately and wash the ones you wore outside. Pollen.com offers an allergy and hay fever index based on your zip code as well as a local and national allergy forecast that indicates the allergy risk across the states.

Summer can be a scary time for people who suffer from allergies, but with the proper knowledge of preventative measures and the right plan of action, you can beat the pollen-releasing plants at their own game.