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Clinician’s Corner: Ragweed Allergy

Achoooo.. That most familiar sound we hear this time of the year as the ravages of ragweed in the fields affects our patients.  A retired allergist once told me that Central Pennsylvania was the best place on earth to practice!  We have the deciduous and evergreen tree pollens in the spring, then the grass pollens in the summer.  The rainy days of spring and summer produce lots of molds, leading into fall when the ragweed is in full bloom until the first killing frost.  Couple that with our cool nights and everyone opens the windows (and even puts a fan in the window) to suck in all these outdoor allergens!

Flower pollens like those from annual plants rarely cause allergy, as their pollen is moved by bees. It is the windborne pollens that present the most difficulty to allergy sufferers. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, 10-20% of us suffer from ragweed allergy.

Here are some more teaching points your Thompson Pharmacist would like to share:

  • Ragweed is most common in the Eastern states and the Midwest, mostly in rural areas. It includes several members of the daisy family.
  • A single plant produces up to 1 billion pollen grains.
  • Ragweed flowers mature and release pollen. The pollen must become airborne to fertilize other seeds.
  • Warmth, humidity and breezes after sunrise help the release. Pollen levels are highest in the morning & early afternoon (10am-3pm)
  • The pollen must then travel by air to another plant to fertilize the seed for growth the coming year.
  • Pollens can travel up to 400 miles out to sea, but most fall locally.

Some treatment approaches can be:

  • Avoiding the peak pollen times for outdoor activity between 10am and 3pm.
  • Use central air conditioning, and HEPA filters. Maintain filters often.
  • Use of antihistamine therapy, which we will discuss in the next two weeks
  • Use of immunotherapy if insufficient response to antihistamines. They help desensitize the patient. Two immunotherapy options are available for severe cases of ragweed allergy:
    • Allergy shots can help build resistance to ragweed allergens.
    • Tablets that dissolve under the tongue are available by prescription. These sublingual tablets must be started 12 weeks before the beginning of ragweed season.
  • Let the pollen outside!If you spend a lot of time outside during peak pollen time:
  • Take your shoes off outside
  • Don’t wear your “outside” clothes to bed
  • Take a shower and shampoo your hair at night before going to bed.

Ragwitek: (Short ragweed pollen allergen extract)

Is a prescription drug that contains small amounts of natural short ragweed pollen that builds tolerance to decrease sensitivity to ragweed pollen.

Use: Treatment of short ragweed-induced allergies, that have been diagnosed by your allergy doctor.

Dose: 1 tablet dissolved under tongue once daily.  Your doctor will monitor your first dose in his office.Medication should be laid under the tongue, and patient does not swallow for 1 minute. Patients should NOT take with food or beverages and not eat or drink for at least five minutes after administration.

Notes: Should be started at least 12 weeks before the expected onset of ragweed pollen season and continue throughout the season.

Whether you use antihistamines or immunotherapy, your Thompson Pharmacist can help you with your ragweed allergies.  We can help you choose an allergy medicine that is right for you, because at Thompson Pharmacy, it’s All for YOU!!!