Johns Hopkins Medicine 
Office of Corporate Communications
Media contact: John Lazarou
410-502-8902; [email protected]

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


-- Johns Hopkins Allergist Available to Discuss Surviving Ragweed Season 

Now that spring allergy victims are finally feeling relief from the diminishing tree and grass pollen, along comes the start of the ragweed pollen season, promising new challenges and miserable rounds of sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes for the more than 36 million Americans who have hay fever.

Ragweed, which starts blooming in mid-August in most of the country, accounts for more than $3 billion each year in lost production, medications and doctor visits, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Pollen released from ragweed is the airborne pollen allergen most responsible for late summer and early fall allergy symptoms and its numbers are legend. In an average season, each ragweed plant produces one billion pollen grains, whose lightweight particles can travel up to 400 miles. Though ragweed is commonly found in fields and along roadsides, even people in urban areas can feel the impact when ragweed grows or in vacant lots or blows in from surrounding areas.

“Besides the negative effect on your quality of life, uncontrolled symptoms can lead to more serious medical conditions, such as sinusitis or asthma,” says Bruce S. Bochner, M.D., director of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Johns Hopkins.

Bochner urges allergy sufferers to consult with an allergist/immunologist before their symptoms get out of control. “Studies have shown that those who get prompt medical attention make fewer visits to emergency rooms and are better able to manage their symptoms,” he says.

Bochner and the AAAAI recommend the following tips to help you prepare:

  • Begin taking prescription or over-the-counter allergy medications recommended by your allergist or other medical professional 10 to 14 days prior to your area’s onset of ragweed season. Notify your doctor if you have any adverse reactions to these medications that might prevent you from using them successfully.

  • Consult with an allergist before taking herbal supplements or other alternative therapies. These treatments can cause potentially serious side effects.

  •  If over-the-counter or prescription medications do not provide adequate relief, consider immunotherapy treatment (allergy shots), which increase tolerance to the proteins that make allergens offensive. In most cases, immunotherapy can safely and effectively ease the symptoms of ragweed allergies.

  • Continue treatment for two to three weeks after the season, typically into October, to decrease nasal hyper-reactivity that may persist after pollen exposure has ended.

To find an allergist or immunologist at Johns Hopkins, call 410-550-2300 or visit the following Web site: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/allergy.

For updated pollen counts in your area, visit the National Allergy Bureau’s Web site, http://www.aaaai.org/nab.

To interview Bochner, contact John Lazarou at 410-502-8902 or [email protected].