Fall allergy season starting to ramp up

Weather

(WJHL) – According to allergist Dr. Marek Pienkowski, ragweed pollen is one of the major allergens people face in our area. It usually peaks late September. 

“With ragweed being one of my biggest allergies, mostly sometimes I get asthma. [It’s] real bad with my eyes draining, sneezing, watery eyes,” Aftan Isaacs explained. 

“This year we have more probably rain than previous years so we unfortunately anticipate that the ragweed is going to be much stronger than years,” Dr. Pienkowski said.

Above freezing temperatures readily produces ragweed and wind allows it to travel through the air easily since it’s a very small pollen, but Dr. Pienkowski says the prevalence of weed killer also plays a role.

“Roundup is ragweed resistant. As a result of years and years of using Roundup, we have more and more ragweed around.”

Isaacs works outside 12 hours a day and says it’s important for her to take allergy meds to keep her symptoms under control.

“Also, I take allergy shots once a week. [That] has been the biggest help. I’ve been on them a year and a half,” she explained.

“Allergy pills, different types of antihistamines and nasal solutions which are more effective. Allergy immunization is our optimal treatment. The pills are only symptomatic relief,” Dr. Pienkowski said echoing the success of allergy shots. 

According to Dr. Pienkowski, the masks we use to protect ourselves from COVID-19 are a reasonable protection for airborne allergies.

“Most of my patients with allergies since we now wear masks have much less problems than otherwise,” he said. 

He says some symptoms of COVID-19 and allergies overlap. Someone with COVID may have a loss of smell or even taste. 

“Loss of smell is related to nasal congestion which again is a classic sign of allergy problems,” Dr. Pienkowski said. “Also, the feeling of chills and fatigue, common in early viral infections, could be confused with allergy symptoms.” 

However, those with allergies do not run a fever. 

Dr. Pienkowski also says ragweed cross reacts with different fruits and vegetables, including: cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, honeydew and squash. 

“I would encourage people with a ragweed allergy to be careful about the gourd family of veggies because that is more likely to contribute to more problems,” he explained. “Because of this, ragweed allergies are also associated with gastrointestinal problems, including some bloating, diarrhea, constipation as well as skin rashes.”

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