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.
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.
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.