Fall is ragweed season, but sniffling and sneezing is no way to start the school year!
The end of August marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year — and, for people who have ragweed allergies, the start of allergy season. Spring may be the season that’s most strongly associated with pollen, but fall allergies can be just as bad (or even worse) for many people.
While spring allergies are usually caused by trees and summer allergies can be blamed on grasses, fall allergies are often caused by weeds or mold. That said, ragweed, a plant that can grow along roads or even in parking lots, is far and away the most common source of fall allergies.
Further, because ragweed is so small and light, it can easily be carried long distances by the wind, meaning not even big cities are safe from the allergen. If you’ve noticed your child sneezing and sniffling this fall, no matter where you live, it’s possible that ragweed is the culprit.
Recognizing Fall Allergies
Because ragweed season typically coincides with cooler weather, ragweed allergies are commonly mistaken for a cold or sinus infection. Indeed, the symptoms are virtually identical, and may include:
- • Runny nose
- • Sinus pressure
- • Watery eyes
- • Itchy eyes
- • Scratchy, sore throat
- • Coughing
- • Decreased sense of smell
Fortunately, there are a few ways to distinguish between a cold or sinus infection and allergies. Most notably, if your child is experiencing a fever or muscle aches, it’s almost certainly not allergies — these symptoms only accompany an infection. Additionally, fluid from a runny nose is likely to be green or yellow if your child has a cold; if it’s clear, it’s more likely the result of allergies.
But the single most telling characteristic of allergies is their longevity. If your child is suffering from a ragweed allergy, their symptoms will linger all fall. If a cold or sinus infection is causing their sneezing and sniffling, they’ll recover within a week or two. That said, it’s best not to wait for weeks on end to determine whether your child has allergies — if your child displays symptoms for more than a couple of weeks, see a pediatrician.
Alleviating Ragweed Allergies
If your child has ragweed allergies, there are steps you can take to alleviate their symptoms. First, help your child limit their exposure to ragweed as much as possible. Because ragweed counts are highest first thing in the morning, do your best to keep your child inside during the early hours of the day.
You can also keep ragweed from finding its way into your house by immediately washing clothes after wearing them outside, using a HEPA filter, vacuuming frequently, and hanging clothes to dry inside instead of outside.
If you’ve tried these steps but your child is still exhibiting severe allergy symptoms, it may be time to consider medication or allergy shots. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can provide temporary allergy relief, while allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy and offer a more long-term solution.
If your child is exhibiting allergy symptoms and you’d like to look into medications or allergy shots, make an appointment with Kids’ Health. We’re dedicated to helping your child reach their best, in and out of the classroom, and sneezing and sniffling all fall is sure to interfere with both their work and play.