Ragweed season in the United States is in full swing from the middle of August through October. This is significant for the 10 to 20 percent of Americans who are allergic to ragweed pollen. One ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen which can be carried on the wind up to two miles into the atmosphere and at least 400 miles away from the parent plant. Most ragweed pollen stays close to the source, causing allergy or hay fever symptoms in those who are allergic. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)
An allergy is a reaction by the immune system to a harmless substance known as an allergen. Ragweed pollen is just one of many weed pollens that can act as an allergen.
When someone with an allergy comes in contact with their allergen, the immune system jumps into action to defend the body from what it believes is a foreign invader. This triggers the body to release antibodies and other chemicals including histamine.
Histamine triggers typical allergy symptoms including itchy or puffy eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat. For people with asthma, contact with an allergen can also trigger an asthma attack which can make breathing difficult.
Ragweed is a weed that grows in most parts of the United States except in upper New England and the southern tip of Florida. Seventeen species of ragweed can be found in the United States, including giant ragweed which can grow to over 12 feet tall. Approximately 75 percent of all people who are allergic to pollen-producing plants are allergic to ragweed. (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)
If you suffer from ragweed allergies, try these tips to limit allergy symptoms.
• Pick your time : Plan to be outdoors when pollen counts are lowest, generally after 10 a.m. Pollen counts are typically highest from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.
• Avoid windy days: Pollen carries on the wind so try to stay inside on windy days.
• Wash off the pollen: If you have been working in the yard or exercising outdoors, take a shower and change clothes as soon as you come inside to get rid of pollen on your skin and clothing.