Here it comes again – ragweed season. It begins in August, and for as many as one out of five Americans, it heralds months of sneezing, runny noses, wheezing and other allergy symptoms.
There’s more bad news: Over the last 20 years, ragweed season has increased by up to four weeks. In many areas, ragweed season now extends until the end of October, or even later. The U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) attributes the lengthening ragweed season to climate change, including a longer frost-free season and the timing of the first fall frost. The change is most pronounced in northern regions such as Minnesota and North Dakota.
Although allergies can make life miserable, there are steps you can take to make it bearable. Here are a few suggestions on how to make it through ragweed season without letting tiny ragweed spores run – or ruin – your life.
1. Keep your windows closed.
Keeping windows closed will help limit ragweed pollen indoors, especially when outdoor pollen counts are high. Typically, the highest pollen counts are recorded between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. If it’s warm, run the air conditioner but be sure to set the vent to re-circulate air rather than drawing in fresh air from outside. Remember to keep windows closed when driving in your car as well.
2. Take a shower before bedtime.
It’s a good idea to take a shower directly before bedtime, especially during ragweed season. Be especially attentive to washing your face and hair to remove any pollen. You are preventing ragweed from contaminating your bed. It’s also a good idea to wash your clothes if you have been spending time outdoors during the day.
3. Wear a mask outdoors.
While ordinary dust masks will do little or nothing to ease your ragweed allergies, a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator mask can help prevent ragweed pollen and other allergens from reaching your sinuses, especially when you are outside doing yardwork. These high-quality masks are available at hardware and home supply stores.
4. Use a high-performance air filtration system.
A high-performance room air purifier such as the IQAir HealthPro Series will filter more than 99.97% of all ragweed pollen from the air. For best results, put an air purifier in each room, or consider a whole-house system such as the IQAir Perfect 16. At the very least, a HealthPro Plus in your bedroom will help you breathe easy all night long.
5. Consider using a nasal irrigation system.
You can rinse out your sinuses with a salt solution every day. A nasal wash will clean allergens from your nose, increasing airflow and helping keep your allergies in check.
6. See a specialist.
If your allergies continue to interfere with your day-to-day activities, it may be time to see a specialist. An allergist who is certified by the Board of Allergy and Immunology can help identify your allergy triggers and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
By taking these simple steps to control ragweed pollen and its effect on your health, you can enjoy the change of season and cooler weather that autumn brings. For more information on ragweed pollen and daily pollen count forecasts, check with your local health department or air quality agency.