After the year we’ve had so far, the annual arrival of ragweed season may feel distinctly anti-climactic…or it would feel that way, except for all those bothersome allergy symptoms.
Mid-August through October is quite simply prime time for ragweed allergies here in Ontario province, and this year the irritating pollen started showing up as early as late July.
Right now, however, is when pollen counts are highest. This is especially scary this year because ragweed can produce health symptoms that sound eerily similar to the onset of COVID-19.
How can you tell which one is causing your respiratory and health symptoms?
Even more importantly, how can you bolster your defences against all of it? Read on to find out!
Bumper Crop of Ragweed This Year in Ontario
Ragweed is an opportunistic plant – a weed, if you will. And guess where ragweed grows most abundantly here in Canada?
If you guessed southern Ontario, you know why many of us have ragweed on the mind right about now. This year, ragweed season came a full two weeks early. Warmer than usual temperatures have also helped this year’s ragweed crop thrive.
And by “thrive,” consider this: one single ragweed plant can easily release more than one billion pollen grains into the airspace around it. If you have allergies, this is about the worst time of year for flare-ups.
While ragweed season is never a highly anticipated annual event here in Ontario, this year it is even less welcome at a time when we are all trying to stay as healthy as possible to avoid catching COVID-19.
Ragweed Allergy Versus COVID-19 Symptoms
The symptoms of ragweed allergies versus COVID-19 can look quite similar because both ragweed and COVID-19 primarily attack the respiratory system.
First, let’s take a look at what to watch for if you are sensitive to ragweed pollen.
- Post-nasal drip
- Runny nose
- Respiratory congestion
- Sinus pressure, pain and headache
- Itching of the nose, mouth and eyes
- Eyes that are red and watery
- Feeling of pressure in and around the nose and upper face
- Coughing, wheezing.
- “Popping” or blocked ears
- Skin rash
- Blue-tinged or swollen area under the eyes
- Decreased sense of smell
- Decreased sense of taste
- Decreased sleep quality
Do any of these sound like another set of even more worrisome symptoms we are all concerned about right now?
Next, let’s take a look at some commonly agreed-upon symptoms of COVID-19.
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Nasal drip or runny nose
- Chills or fever
- Body aches
- Blue-tinged lips or face
- Chest pain or congestion
- Mental confusion
- Excessive sleepiness
- Loss of sense of smell
- Loss of sense of taste
It is true that there is a wider range of potential symptoms associated with the onset of COVID-19, but what matters more is both ragweed allergies and COVID-19 share less typical symptoms, such as loss of sense of smell or taste along with the more typical respiratory symptoms.
Do You Have a History of Ragweed Pollen Sensitivity?
Because ragweed allergies and COVID-19 do share some unusual symptoms, take a moment now to think back to previous years. Do you have a known sensitivity to ragweed pollen?
If you are not sure, consider that fully one-third of Canadians self-report as being seasonal allergy sufferers, and nearly all of these report sensitivity to ragweed as well as other seasonal pollens.
So, if you have suffered from any type of seasonal allergies in years past, you have a higher than average chance of being sensitive to ragweed pollen as well.
Preventing or Treating Ragweed Allergies or COVID-19
Another area where ragweed allergies and COVID-19 are too similar for comfort is in the steps recommended to prevent exposure.
There is no cure for ragweed allergies and no foolproof prevention. But you can take steps to reduce your exposure while out and avoid bringing the pollen into your home. This will protect your indoor air quality.
The best prevention is to avoid contact, just as it is with COVID-19.
This requires taking extra precautions when returning home after being outside. Wash your hands and your clothing. Leave your shoes at the door. Wash all produce thoroughly.
Just as with COVID-19, there is currently no cure, but there are medical treatments to ease the discomfort of some of the health symptoms.
There are also three indoor air quality systems that offer protection against exposure to ragweed and SARS-CoV-2.
Installing HEPA Filtration to Guard Against Ragweed and COVID-19
HEPA filtration is the best way to reduce airborne exposure to ragweed pollen. HEPA filters can block airborne solid particles like pollen with 99.97% efficiency.
Traditional HEPA filters will not work with any HVAC system rated MERV 16 or below.
The best way to add HEPA filtration is to install a standalone HEPA filtration system to work with your central (ducted) HVAC.
If you have window units or ductless HVAC, a portable freestanding HEPA filtration system will do the same job.
Ultraviolet Air Purification Adds Extra COVID-19 Protection
To guard against COVID-19 exposure, you will need more than just a HEPA filter.
You also need ultraviolet air purification, which can neutralize liquid and gaseous droplets that contain active SARS-CoV-2 viral matter.
Ultraviolet air purification systems are available for both ducted (central) and non-ducted indoor spaces.
Indoor Air Ventilation Is Critical to Increase Indoor Air Safety
Finally, pairing HEPA filtration and UV air purification with enhanced indoor air ventilation will give you the most protection against contact with SARS-CoV-2 and ragweed pollen exposure.
Get in Touch With Clear Air Solutions In Hamilton
Here at Clean Air Solutions in Hamilton, we are considered an essential business and remain open to serve our customers safely with contact-less options during this difficult time. Interested in improving your indoor air quality? Give Clean Air Solutions a call at 1-905-549-2470 or visit us online.