Ragweed season is in full swing, and about to hit its peak in the desert.  Many allergy sufferers deal with ragweed allergy, and the ragweed pollen season in Arizona is very long.  Ragweed is extremely allergenic, releasing up to a billion grains of pollen per season!

What is ragweed?

Ragweeds are flowering plants in the Ambrosia genus. They are found in tropical and subtropical regions.  There are over 50 types of ragweed, including short, false, western, common and great ragweed. The most species of ragweed are found in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.  Ragweed pollen is very allergenic, and each ragweed plant can release up to a billion grains of pollen per season. Ragweed pollen is known for causing persistent symptoms related to allergic rhinitis, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, post nasal drainage, itchy and water eyes.  Almost half of people with allergies in the United States have ragweed allergy.

Do I have ragweed allergy?

If you feel your allergy symptoms are worse in the fall and especially when outdoors, you probably have ragweed allergy.  If you’re not sure, your allergist can find out for you by skin testing or a simple blood test.   Some ragweed allergy sufferers will have problems with eating certain fruits, such as banana, avocado, or melons due to itchy mouth.  This is called oral allergy syndrome and is related to ragweed allergy!

What can I do to help my ragweed allergy?  Here are some tips:

  1. Exercise or spend time outdoors in the early morning hours (before 6am), before ragweed pollen elevates during the day
  2. Avoid spending time outside mid-day, when ragweed pollen peaks
  3. Even if the weather is nice, keep doors and windows closed to prevent pollen coming in your car or home
  4. Avoid being outdoors on pollution-advisory days; Increased CO2 or NO in the air (related to pollution) can actually increase pollen counts!
  5. Consistent use of daily allergy medication, such as a long-acting antihistamine (like Zyrtec or Allegra) plus a nasal steroid spray to decrease inflammation in your nose and sinuses.  These medicines work best when taken every day
  6. Immunotherapy (aka Allergy Shots or Drops) are also a way to build up your tolerance and desensitize you to the pollen you are allergic to.

No need to suffer through ragweed season! Ask your allergy provider for help if you are having problems with your allergies!

No matter if your child is attending school online, in-person, or hybrid of both – returning to school is looking different for everyone this year. In addition to navigating the changes due to Covid-19, allergy and asthma families may have additional challenges or concerns this year. Here are some tips and thoughts if your child is back in the classroom this fall:

Stay home if sick, especially if you have a fever. Most schools have their own protocols in place regarding this. It’s important to keep your child home, monitor symptoms, and follow up with your doctor if needed.

While wearing a mask can prevent COVID transmission, a mask will not prevent allergies or asthma. Please be sure that allergy and asthma medications are continued as directed by your provider and if you feel your asthma is worse because of the mask, it’s a good idea to discuss with your provider.

Get your annual flu vaccine to keep your child healthy.

Many schools are having lunch time in the classroom, instead of the cafeteria. If your child has food allergy, remind them not to trade foods with other students. Consider meeting with the teacher to discuss any unique challenges your child may face with food in the classroom. Continue to educate your child on the importance of hand-washing to prevent the spread of germs, both in and out of the classroom.

Finally, make sure your food allergy and asthma action plans are up to date. Now is a great time to get into your allergy provider to discuss your food allergy action plans and asthma action plans and get up-to-date forms for schools. If you need your new forms completed, call our office. Some patients may need an appointment in order for their doctor or physician assistant to complete their forms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD), also known as Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM) occurs when the vocal cords do not move or open properly. Sometimes, VCD can be confused with asthma because their symptoms and triggers are very similar. Symptoms of VCD can include shortness of breath, chronic cough, throat clearing, wheezing, loud whistling sound with breathing in, difficult getting a good breath in, frequent yawning, throat tightness, or hoarse voice. VCD can be triggered during stressful or anxious events, or with exercise. Triggers also include airborne dust, pollens and irritants, or colds and viruses. VCD can affect patients of all ages and conditioning level, and is commonly seen in elite athletes or runners. Acid reflux, seen with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and post nasal drainage seen with allergies or sinus disease, can also trigger VCD.

Diagnosing VCD can be a challenge. Often times we rely on the patient’s history, symptoms, and the timing of symptom onset. Sometimes, how a patient responds to different inhaled medications can be a clue. Spirometry, a test often used for asthma diagnosis and monitoring, can sometimes show features of vocal cord irritation. The most definitive way to diagnosis VCD is with laryngoscopy with visualization of the vocal cords.

Treatment for VCD depends on the underlying cause and is different for everyone. It involves treating the underlying cause and controlling triggers, as well as speech therapy or special breathing exercises to relax the throat muscles. The providers at AAAI can help determine if you have VCD or asthma (or both) and help find the right treatment program for you.

 

Vasomotor Rhinitis

 

Vasomotor rhinitis is a condition that causes chronic sneezing, congestion, or runny nose that can be triggered by pollutants like a dusty environment, odors, foods or beverages, or weather changes. These symptoms can often seem like typical allergic rhinitis (hay fever) symptoms. About 50% of patients with allergies will have some type of vasomotor rhinitis. While vasomotor rhinitis can cause similar symptoms, what is going on in the body is much different. In allergic rhinitis, your immune system is involved and has formed antibodies to the trigger, such as pollen. In vasomotor rhinitis, the triggers merely cause an irritation which causes congestion, sneezing, runny nose.  Have you ever had a runny nose from eating a spicy food? That’s a kind of vasomotor rhinitis called gustatory rhinitis.

 

Many patients will have mild symptoms but if symptoms are constant and very irritating, there are treatment options to help control symptoms. Often, allergy testing will be performed to see how to best manage symptoms.    Often times, patients will mistakenly think they may be allergic to a smell or a food, when it’s actually vasomotor rhinitis! It’s important to discuss with your allergist if you are experiencing symptoms like these and have questions, so they can come up with the best recommendations for you!