Ragweed season increases asthma, oral reactions among some allergy sufferers
Aug. 12, 2015
ONALASKA, WIS. – August 15 marks the “official” regional start of the ragweed allergy season. Just as more allergy sufferers with ragweed sensitivity feel the telltale sniffing, sneezing and itching signs of their ragweed allergy, others can feel the impact in ways that might not be as well recognized.
For some allergy sufferers, Oral Allergy Syndrome can be a by-product of pollen allergies such as birch, ragweed and grass. People who normally might not react to certain foods may experience symptoms that can include mouth and throat itching after consuming fresh fruits and vegetables including apples, melons, celery and carrots as well as peanuts and tree nuts. Others may also experience gastrointestinal issues including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
“Compounds in some foods are similar to compounds on the surface of pollen grains,” states Nikhila Schroeder MD, ABAI, a board-certified allergist with Allergy Associates of La Crosse. “So you might be aware that you have a ragweed allergy, but may not know that bananas and certain melons contain those compounds and can cross-react. Exposure to these foods during a heavy pollen season can upset the allergenic load among those with sensitivities to those compounds and cause a greater reaction.”
Ragweed season is also complicated by spikes in mold counts in late summer. The combination of the two allergens can be dangerous for asthmatics with those sensitivities.
“We encourage these patients to be vigilant about avoiding their exposures,” says Dr. Schroeder, “but we have found that treating these patients with sublingual immunotherapy to build long-term tolerance to the ragweed and mold is more realistic and effective for most patients, rather than attempting to hide indoors during ragweed season each year.” Also, using a short-term sublingual desensitization treatment in the months before the ragweed season starts can help them quickly build tolerance before pollen levels skyrocket, which further helps these patients tolerate the season better when it begins.”
Ultimately, the goal is permanent tolerance for most patients so that treatment is no longer needed once the body has been retrained. For those allergy sufferers who want to enjoy the dwindling days of summer and early fall, treatment can give them the opportunity to enjoy one of the region’s most popular seasons.