Fall allergy symptoms share with COVID; Ragweed a Major Trigger

A stuffy, runny nose could be a sign that your body is dealing with the flu or a COVID-19 infection, or it could be an overreaction to an allergen.

The maturation of pollen-laden plants like ragweed means autumn has arrived in western Pennsylvania.

According to Dr. Karen Lang, who practices family medicine with Excella Health in Greensburg, “If you have a stuffy nose, sneezing, and itching in your eyes, ears, and the roof of your mouth, it’s usually a seasonal allergy.”

“When you have fever, aches and pains and a yellow-green discharge from the nose, you’re probably in more disease,” she said.

Mayo Clinic notes some additional difference in symptomsSore throat with allergies is rare but usually associated with COVID-19; Nausea and diarrhea are other possible COVID symptoms that are not part of an allergic reaction.

Another clue that an allergy may be the cause of someone’s misery is an annual trend. “Sometimes it’s really obvious, if every fall or spring you get symptoms,” Lang said. Tree pollen is a major allergen in the spring while ragweed serves as the primary culprit in the fall.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November, with pollen levels reaching their peak by mid-September in many parts of the country.

In many areas of the country, ragweed pollen levels are highest in mid-September.

Pollen.com offers an online tool that can be used to create a . can be done to get Forecast for upcoming pollen levels in major US cities. This indicates that pollen levels are expected to remain in the low-moderate range on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, with a pollen count of 4.6.

Pollen count measures grams of pollen per cubic meter over a 24-hour period. A high pollen count is 9.7 to 12.

“Most people with fall allergies blame goldenrod, which is such a beneficial pollinator-friendly plant for fall,” said Patty Schildkamp, ​​Penn State master gardener based in Westmoreland County. “It’s really the ragweed blooming with it that is the culprit.”

The two plants have some similarities in appearance, but goldenrod blooms turn a bright yellow, while the flowers of common ragweed are more subdued green.

Ragweed pollen is lightweight and can be carried in the air for miles. It is estimated that one plant can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Release of pollen grains between 5 am and 10 am

Goldenrod pollen is large and heavy and clings to pollinators visiting the plant.

Another possible allergic effect is oral allergy syndrome, or cross-reactivity. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergy sufferers may experience itching or tingling in the mouth when eating cantaloupes, watermelon, bananas or sunflower seeds because those foods contain proteins that share similarities with ragweed pollen. .

University of Illinois State Master Gardener Coordinator Sandra Mason gives advice For homeowners who find ragweed sprouting in their lawn or garden: “Cut, cultivate or pull the ragweed so they don’t ‘go to seed’ to help reduce their population. Next season Mulch the area, and remove the plants in May or June before flowering.

Other plants that can trigger fall allergies include burning bush, pigweed and mugwort.

To limit exposure to pollen from these plants, Lang said, “the smartest way is to keep the air conditioning on and the windows closed.

“If you are going to do some outdoor work, put on a mask. It can really cut down on symptoms. More people are probably feeling comfortable wearing masks than we have worn during the pandemic.”

Lang notes that the production of the chemical histamine in the body causes allergy symptoms, so the first line of treatment to reduce them would be an over-the-counter antihistamine. The original forms of these drugs can make people drowsy, but the newer versions avoid that side effect, Lang said.

She said nasal steroid sprays can also be helpful and are available over the counter.

In addition, doctors may offer allergy shots depending on the specific allergens affecting the patient.

A skin-prick test is a common way to identify the cause of a person’s allergies. Lang explained that a suspected allergen is applied to the sting area to see if there is a reaction. Blood tests may also be used.

The test can help pinpoint allergens that can affect people year-round – such as mold, dust mites, pet dander and cockroach droppings.

Serum containing the identified allergen is administered in excess to the patient.

“Then, when you’re exposed to it in the environment, you’ve already developed a tolerance to it,” Lang said.

Jeff Himmler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter ,

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