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Ragweed season expected to be longer in 2011

This year, seasonal allergy sufferers were caught by surprise when rising temperatures resulted in a significant extension to the ragweed season. So far, 2011 has seen "one of the worst, and longest, allergy seasons yet," reports ABC News.

Why this allergy season is expected to be more severe than usual
According to Reuters, the culprit is climate change. This year's higher-than-average temperatures have caused the regular ragweed season to become extended by as much as three weeks, and perhaps more. In addition to the added heat, the added dampness from the extra showers - not to mention Hurricane Irene - on the East Coast has produced a climate that's perfect for ragweed growth.

Sunny days and damp conditions caused by excessive rainfall create the perfect climate for Ambrosia artemisiifolia, also known as common ragweed. There are 41 known species of ragweed found in the world today and 17 of these occur in North America, however Ambrosia artemisiifolia is the most prevalent and the most likely to cause distress in the fall allergy season. The plant is leafy green and usually blossoms with tiny, golden flowers in late summer and early fall. It can grow up to three feet tall.

A word about ragweed allergies and symptoms
Those who suffer from seasonal allergies know that ragweed is no laughing matter. Between 10 and 20 percent of Americans suffer from ragweed allergies, a condition also known as "hay fever," and those who suffer from other pollen allergies are 75 percent more likely to have a reaction to ragweed pollen as well, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Symptoms of hay fever range from itchy eyes, nose and throat, sneezing, stuffy or runny nose and trouble sleeping. Those who are also afflicted with asthma may find that exposure to ragweed pollen exacerbates their symptoms.

If you haven't been officially diagnosed with a ragweed allergy, but you feel yourself responding to the added amount of pollen in the air this season, you should make an appointment with your doctor to be tested for allergies. Allergies can develop at any time in a person's life, so just because you haven't experienced symptoms previously doesn't mean you're not allergic.

What you can do to find relief
When braving the great outdoors, those with allergies should be sure to take their daily allergy medication. If antihistamines aren't effective in combating symptoms, another option is immunotherapy. Talk to your doctor to ascertain the best solution for you. Avoiding exposure is the best way to reduce symptoms.

Inside your home, you should make efforts to ensure that every room is as hypoallergenic as possible. This includes frequent cleaning and maintenance, such as sweeping and vacuuming floors and upholstered furniture, and other fabrics like curtains and table cloths. You may also want to consider purchasing hypoallergenic mattress covers and furniture cases, especially if you find that your allergies are usually more severe when you get up in the morning. Fabrics can trap these pollens, increasing your chances of being exposed to their effects. For those who suffer from advanced allergies, it's a good idea to use hypoallergenic furniture covers for sofas and upholstered chairs.

Of course, within the home, most experts would agree that the number one thing you can do to protect yourself from airborne allergens and other irritants is to invest in a professional-quality home air purifier such as the IQAir HealthPro Plus. This HealthPro Plus is a medical-grade home air purifier equipped with a top-of-the-line HyperHEPA filter that has been clinically proven to remove 99.5 percent of common household irritants such as airborne bacteria and viruses, pet dander, mold spores and, of course, pollens such as ragweed. If you're serious about protecting your family from this year's extended ragweed season, consider investing in the IQAir HealthPro Plus or another medical-grade air purifier today.