Is It Ragweed or Goldenrod
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 75 percent of Americans with pollen allergies are allergic to ragweed. Ragweed allergy, or hay fever, affects 10 to 20 percent of Americans. Another plant, goldenrod, often gets the blame for many hay fever flare-ups, even though it really does not cause hay fever at all.
Goldenrod is a plant with small yellow flowers that grow in clusters. The plant has single woody stems that grow three to seven feet. Its flowers bloom in August and September.
Though native to Europe, goldenrod has spread to other parts of the world, including North America. There are at least 130 species of goldenrod in the United States.
Goldenrod has a long history of medicinal uses, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Its many uses include:
- Treating skin wounds
- As a diuretic
- Can be used as a mouth rinse to treat mouth and throat inflammation
- Used to treat arthritis, asthma, diabetes, enlarged liver, gout, hemorrhoids and internal bleeding
- In Europe, it is used to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infectionsEven though it does not cause hay fever or seasonal allergies, goldenrod may cause allergic contact dermatitis in some people when they touch it. Some doctors may elect not to prescribe goldenrod to patients with hay fever.
Ragweed grows everywhere throughout the U.S., but it is mostly found in the eastern and mid-western region of the country. Ragweed thrives for only one season, but one plant can release up to a billion pollen grains that are so fine that they can float with the slightest breeze.
Some facts about ragweed include:
- One plant can send a billion grains of pollen airborne
- Ragweed is a common asthma trigger
- 1 in 5 people are allergic to ragweed
- Ragweed is the most common hay fever allergy
Ragweed allergy is a sensitivity to ragweed pollen. When someone inhales air polluted with ragweed pollen, an allergic reaction occurs. This can involve symptoms such as hives, sneezing, runny/stuffy nose, itchy, puffy eyes and itchy throat.
More severe reactions may involve asthma attack, chronic sinusitis and headache. Individuals with parents or siblings with ragweed allergies have a greater chance of developing ragweed allergy themselves. People who are already are allergic to animals, dust or mold can also have a greater chance of ragweed adversely affecting them.
People with ragweed allergies may also experience symptoms after eating honeydew, cantaloupe, bananas, watermelon, sunflower seeds, honey and chamomile tea.
Ragweed Allergy Treatment
You could ask your doctor to prescribe medication or give you an allergy shot for your symptoms. You should also talk to your doctor (or a qualified allergist) about being tested to determine whether your symptoms are caused by ragweed or some other plant.
Allergies to other plants can cause the same symptoms as hay fever, in which case avoiding ragweed will not help at all. Your doctor may be able to determine what type of allergy you have by the type of symptoms you have, and what triggers an allergic reaction (e.g., pollen, smoke, dust, pet dander or food).
By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT