If you're suffering from allergy symptoms right now, you're not alone.
Doctors say one plant is the culprit, and for many reasons the incidence of allergies is increasing along with the production of pollen.
While there is no cure, there are treatments that can help.
It's September and Nancy Joseph is miserable.
"The allergies brings on the asthma attack because I'm so congested, and so full of phlegm and the asthma system come on and my airways close up, and I can't breath. It's really bad," says Joseph, 54 of New Orleans, who's been suffering from symptoms since she was six-months-old.
The villain stealing her sleep, voice and breath is ragweed pollen, which usually reaches peak levels in mid-September. If you're allergic to it, you get hay fever.
"One doctor told me if I lived in Arizona I'd be ok," Joseph laughed.
Spring tree pollen season runs into summer grass season which then runs into fall ragweed season.
LSU Health allergy expert, Dr. Sanjay Kamboj, attacks the symptoms in several ways. There's environmental hygiene changes, filters along with nasal steroids, and there are ways to modulate your immune system which is causing the reaction. There are pills (sublingual, under the tongue) you start taking 12 weeks before the season called RAGWITEK.
"So the pills are available only for ragweed and grass. They're not available for dust mite and trees at this time. They're working on it," explained Dr. Sanjay Kamboj, LSUHSC Associate Professor of medicine in the Department of Pulmonary Critical Care and Allergy and Immunology.
There is also a course of regular injections, that in a few years, can modulate your immune system.
However, when people such as Joseph are really having trouble breathing, she'll take a course of oral steroids.
"And these people symptoms go, improve, quality of life improves, requirement of medications improve," said Dr. Kamboj.
Joseph says reducing her allergy symptoms, which are not contagious, is a must in her career in home health care where her clients are elderly.
"But that's the thing, I'm coughing over my clients and they get kind of scared thinking I have something," said Joseph.
About five to 15 percent of people who are allergic to ragweed, also get symptoms like itching in the mouth from certain fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Kamboj says in some cases certain foods can cause more serious systemic reactions. He says heating them I the microwave or cooking them may help.
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