Ragweeds galore: DC area ‘in the thick’ of fall allergy season

The arrival of fall in the D.C. area brings cooler weather, changing leaves and  — sniffle — the nuisance of seasonal allergies.

Right now, “ragweed is really the big player in Washington,” said Dr. Rachel Schreiber, an allergist and immunologist in Rockville, Maryland. “And ragweed can really wreak havoc on allergy sufferers.”

Schreiber said ragweed accounts for half of all weed pollen in the air, and that ragweed season runs from mid-August until about the first frost. Other weeds can cause allergy issues as well.

Symptoms include stuffy nose; runny nose; itchy, watery eyes; itchy nose; itchy throat and sneezing.

“Really the number one symptom of allergy is actually itching,” Schreiber said, “so when people tell me they’re itchy, my radar goes up.”

She recommended starting medications early, before pollen counts ramp up, but said it’s never too late to start a medication.

“Right now, we’re pretty much in the thick of it, and so you really want to make sure that if you do have allergies, you’re on some medication to help control your symptoms,” Schreiber said.

Though many of the medications are over-the-counter, she recommended consulting a doctor about taking them. Those who still cannot get relief should consult an allergist.

Schreiber likens allergy medications to a Band-Aid, and said allergy shots “get to the root of the problem.”

Other tips include limiting the amount of pollen inside, which means keeping windows closed.

“We all love that crisp fall air, but windows open for allergy sufferers can be really tough, because you’re letting all of that pollen into your house,” Schreiber said.

For pets that have been outside, be sure to wipe fur and paws down when they come inside to avoid tracking pollen in, she added.

Schreiber also recommended good filters in air conditioning and heating systems.

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