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Ragweed pollen season returns to Nebraska; symptoms can mirror those of COVID-19
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Ragweed pollen season returns to Nebraska; symptoms can mirror those of COVID-19

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Close your windows and get out the nasal spray — ragweed season is here.

And this year, it comes in the middle of a pandemic. 

Dr. Linda Ford, a Bellevue allergist who tracks pollen counts, said ragweed pollen usually shows up in the first few days of August.

"Then it takes a few days to get up to a high enough pollen count to be clinically significant to those who are allergic to it, and it has made it to that count," said Ford, who operates the Asthma & Allergy Center in Bellevue.

Ragweed pollen counts usually reach their peak around Labor Day. Symptoms include sneezing; itchy eyes, nose, ears and throat; watery eyes; a runny nose; and congestion.

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People can take steps to minimize the misery brought on by the airborne irritant: Keep windows and doors closed, don't hang laundry outside to dry and shower after spending time outdoors. The masks people wear to help stop the spread of COVID-19 also help allergy sufferers, Ford said. 

"These masks help to filter out most of the pollen and the mold spores that we're inhaling because they are a larger particle than the virus," Ford said. 

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It can be difficult for people to tell the difference between the symptoms caused by the novel coronavirus and those caused by ragweed, Ford said. One possible indicator of COVID-19 is fever, which won't happen with ragweed allergies.

The most effective treatment for those allergic to ragweed pollen are steroid nasal sprays "because they get right to the source of the problem — inflammation in the nose," Ford said. Antihistamines and saline nasal sprays also are effective treatments.

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Still recovering, Sarah Michael-Rush  doesn’t think people here take COVID-19 seriously enough.

“Most places in Kearney require a mask, but anywhere masks aren’t required, not a lot of people are wearing them,” she said. “Walmart requires them, but I was in there the other day and I counted five people walking around without them. I wanted to go up and say to them, ‘I’ve had this. You don’t want it.’”

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