Update (11 a.m. Friday): A third ragweed pollen alert comes on the night many will head out across Oklahoma for prep football games.
The Oklahoma Allergy Clinic recommends masks for people with respiratory issues who have to be outside Friday.
Update (10 a.m. Monday): Ragweed pollen alerts remain at the highest level from Oklahoma Allergy Clinic, according to a Sept. 20 report.
"Severe symptoms may be expected in pollen-sensitive individuals," the report says, adding those with respiratory complications should stay indoors.
With Oklahoma plunging into an especially severe ragweed season while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, experts want sufferers to know when to simply take allergy medicine and when to get tested for the virus.
A relatively wet spring and summer let ragweed flourish. And now that the weed’s annual pollination has begun, allergy patients can expect a particularly difficult fall, according to the Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic.
Ragweed allergies can mimic some COVID symptoms, including a runny nose and sore throat, said Dr. Dean Atkinson in Oklahoma City.
“But there are other symptoms they don’t share,” he said. “A loss of smell. Loss of taste. Fever.”
People experiencing those symptoms shouldn’t blame allergies and should seek a doctor’s advice, Atkinson said.
Masks, recommended to lower the risk of spreading COVID, can also help reduce ragweed allergies. The Allergy Clinic suggests wearing dust masks, such as carpenters use, when working outdoors. The masks can be found in most hardware stores.
Other allergy precautions include washing your hands often, especially after being outdoors. Clean or replace air filters, preferably with a high-efficiency particulate air filter. And use a clothes dryer rather than an outdoor clothes line, where pollen can collect on garments and bedding.
Allergy medications include nasal sprays and antihistamines, but they need to be the correct medicines and should be used continuously throughout the season, Atkinson said.
“Oklahoma has the perfect amount of wind” for ragweed, he said.
Lower winds wouldn’t scatter the pollen. Higher winds would disperse it enough to not bother people.
“Our wind,” Atkinson said, “is in the middle, where people get exposed the most.”
Ragweed season will last until the first hard freeze, which usually comes in November, he said.