Time to Prepare for Fall Allergies | News | Loyola Medicine
Friday, August 21, 2020

As Ragweed Levels Rise, It's Time to Prepare for Fall Allergies

Symptoms can mimic those of COVID-19

image of a man blowing his nose

MAYWOOD, IL –Ragweed levels are beginning to rise, says Rachna Shah, MD, an allergist who oversees the Loyola Medicine Daily Allergy Count. And as some allergy symptoms mirror those of COVID-19, seasonal allergy sufferers should be especially vigilant when adhering to treatment plans and precautions.

“A rise in ragweed tends to mark the informal start of the fall allergy season, which typically begins in mid-August,” says Dr. Shah. The symptoms of seasonal allergies include itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, headaches, ear itching or popping, post-nasal drip and throat irritation. In addition to ragweed, fall allergens include pollen, mold and grass.

“With COVID-19 in the mix and some of the symptoms overlapping (including congestion, runny nose, headaches and throat irritation), it’s especially important this year to have your preventive allergy treatment plan in place,” says Dr. Shah, who explains the differences between allergy and COVID-19 symptoms in a recent Loyola Medicine video.

“Often, when people are feeling well, they will become more lax about following their treatment plans,” says Dr. Shah. For chronic allergy suffers, seasonal treatment protocols—prescriptions, over-the-counter allergy medications and/or steroid nasal sprays—should begin as soon as possible, “as they may take a week or more to kick in.”

In addition, “as allergy symptoms can worsen asthma, causing breathing difficulties, it’s important that you have all of your asthma tools,” says Dr. Shah. “Make sure that your inhaler is up-to-date, not expired, that you have additional inhalers and refills on hand, and that you are taking preventive measures.”

Preventative measures can include modifying activities on days when allergen levels are particularly high.

“Pollen counts are highest in the beginning of the day – from dawn until 10 am,” said Dr. Shah. “Shifting activities to later in the day can help a lot.”

In addition, keeping windows closed on high allergy days, and/or rinsing off or changing clothes after being outside, can help.

To stay on top of what allergens are highest each day, visit the Loyola Medicine Daily Allergy Count web page (loyolamedicine.org/allergy-count), and/or follow the Loyola Daily Allergy Count Twitter page (twitter.com/LoyolaAllergy).

“Patients who are still suffering from allergy symptoms after adhering to their treatment protocols, taking preventive measures and/or modifying daily activities, should be evaluated by a physician,” says Dr. Shah.

To schedule an appointment with a Loyola Medicine allergist, visit loyolamedicine.org or call 888-584-7888.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.