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September 19, 2022

What do Penicillin and Fall Ragweed Allergies Have in Common

What do Penicillin and Fall Ragweed Allergies Have in Common

Fall, for many, is easily the best season of the year. The change of foliage from deep greens to stunning reds and oranges catch sunlight in a splendid way. The crisp feel of the air sets a tone for the winter ahead and all the festivities it brings. Children and adults alike prepare for Halloween decorating and fall activities like apple and pumpkin picking. But for those suffering from chronic environmental and seasonal allergies, symptoms flare up year-round, even in the fall. These allergies can really put a damper on all the fall fun. The good news is there are many treatment options to make sure you can make the most out of this fall season!

What is Ragweed and why is its pollen so bad in the fall?

Let’s first look at what Ragweed is and why the pollen is so bad in the fall. Ragweed is a plant that is found in every state of the United States, except for Alaska. Even though it is widely spread, the good news is it only lives during the fall season. The shocking news is that a single plant can produce one billion pollen grains. The pollen grains of Ragweed plants are incredibly light, making it easy to be carried and distributed. Mornings are the worst time to be outdoors during Ragweed pollen season, as that is when its pollen peaks. Additionally, sufferers of Ragweed allergies may begin to experience allergy symptoms as early as late summer through early fall. There are many plants related to Ragweed that could also trigger allergies such as sunflowers, sage, burweed, marsh elder, rabbit brush, mug wort, groundsel bushel, and eupatorium. It is important to note that those suffering from ragweed allergies may also have allergic reactions to certain foods.

What foods should I avoid if I have ragweed allergies?

For people who are allergic to ragweed, there are some foods that can lead to discomfort. A condition known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), or Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome can cause your mouth to itch or tingle when certain foods are consumed. This is because the pollen from Ragweed is like the protein found in these foods and your immune system is unable to tell the difference. This occurrence is known as cross-reactivity. These foods can include cantaloupes, bananas, watermelon, avocado, and kiwi. Please see your allergist to discuss this further.

Can I get a sinus infection (sinusitis) from ragweed allergies?

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, can lead to sinus infections. Symptoms of ragweed allergies include nasal congestion, runny nose with thin watery discharge, postnasal drip, sneezing, coughing, irritated eyes, weakness or fatigue, and hives. Allergies cause the nasal passages to become inflamed. This inflammation then causes bacteria to become trapped in the nasal cavity. Eventually, if the bacteria stay trapped long enough, it begins to develop into an infection. Once a sinus infection sets in there will also be additional symptoms you may feel on top of the allergy symptoms such as thick colored mucus, painful, swollen feeling around your eyes, forehead, and cheeks, headache or pain in your teeth, cough, and sore throat, as well as a light fever. If your allergies develop into a sinus infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. If an antibiotic is needed, you may need to ask what options are available to you if you’re also allergic to penicillin.

Do I really have a penicillin allergy?

Although penicillin allergies are common, only about 10% of Americans have a documented penicillin allergy. However, just because you were diagnosed with an allergy to penicillin does not mean you may still have one. Ninety percent of people with allergies to penicillin end up outgrowing them. That is why it is important to keep up with allergy testing to know what your status is.

Why is there a Penicillin Allergy Awareness Day?

Some of the most common antibiotics used to treat infections from ear infections and strep throat to sinus infections contain penicillin. These medications include ampicillin, amoxicillin, and Augmentin. Unverified penicillin allergies are becoming increasingly recognized as a public health concern. It’s because of the commonality of these medicines and the numerous infections they are used to treat, that there is a Penicillin Allergy Awareness Day. This awareness encourages individuals to have themselves and their children tested for penicillin allergies.

How can I find out if I am allergic to ragweed pollen or penicillin?

Despite how difficult it is to live with allergies to ragweed pollen and penicillin, there are several short and long-term treatments available to ease the discomfort and even eliminate it for extended periods. The first step is to see an allergist who will perform skin testing to see which allergies you do possess. Once the testing is done, your allergist will work with you to develop a treatment plan and advise you of anything that should be avoided. For pollen allergies, your treatment plan may include either sublingual immunotherapy or allergy shots. These treatments work by slowly introducing small quantities of the allergens into your body over time. Eventually your body will become immune to these allergens, and you will be able to retain immunity for a few years after the treatment is complete.

For more information about sublingual immunotherapy or allergy shots, please call our helpful staff at Greater Austin Allergy at 512-732-2774.

Greater Austin Allergy Asthma & Immunology
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