Ragweed Season Begins In August
Ragweed is a plant that grows from mid-August through the first
frost and wreaks havoc with allergies. It grows wherever it can
get a toehold: farmland, construction sites, along roads, and
possibly even in your backyard. If the ground is bare and disturbed,
it is an open invitation to ragweed.
One ragweed plant can produce one
billion grains of pollen in a single year. By comparison,
a corn plant produces only 4 million grains in a year. Additionally,
ragweed pollen can travel around 400 miles on the wind so it doesn't
even have to grow close to you to be a problem. So you can see
the far-reaching effects of ragweed.
There are about 20 species of ragweed in North America, but the
two most common are called short ragweed and giant ragweed. Short
ragweed or common ragweed is found in more locations than any
other species. It can grow to 4 feet in height. The leaves have
a fern-like appearance and grow opposite each other on the stem.
Giant ragweed is not found as often, but it is the biggest pollen
producer and can grow to as tall as 15 feet.
Why is ragweed important to me?
If you are one of the 20% of Americans who suffer from hay fever,
ragweed is important to you. Anyone allergic to pollen of any
type has a 75 percent chance of being allergic to ragweed. This
weed is singled out as an enemy to allergy sufferers mainly because
of the sheer volume of pollen it produces and the distance the
pollen can travel on the wind.
It is estimated that around 3.8 million work and school days are
missed every year in the United States due to ragweed. If you
have nasal congestion, sneezing, eye irritation, or itchy eyes,
nose or throat every year in late summer through fall, you could
be one of those statistics. To be sure if your symptoms are caused
by ragweed pollen, you can visit an allergist or ENT (ear, nose,
and throat specialist) for testing. If you are allergic to ragweed,
your doctor may suggest antihistamines or allergy shots to alleviate
can I do to avoid ragweed and its pollen?
There are many things you can do on your own to reduce exposure
Keep windows closed at all
times during ragweed season to prevent pollen from drifting into
your home. Use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries
Minimize outdoor activity when
pollen counts are high. Peak pollen times are usually between
10 am and 4 pm.
Keep your car windows closed
Take a shower after spending
time outside, pollen can collect on your hair and skin.
Don't hang sheets or clothing
outside to dry. Pollens can collect on them as well.
Minimize exposure to other
known allergens during ragweed season, since symptoms are the
result of a cumulative effect of multiple allergens and non-allergic
Washing clothes and bedding in an allergen reduction laundry detergent
helps get rid of irritating pollen. A window screen filter can
be an enjoyable solution to the need to keep pollen out but let
fresh air in. Keeping updated on the pollen levels for your area
can also be helpful in planning activities.
What else can I do to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever
caused by ragweed?
Nasal irrigation is frequently recommended to help control ragweed
symptoms by removing the irritants. Rinsing pollen out of the
nasal and sinus passages can help prevent or reduce allergic reactions
to ragweed. There are two main methods of irrigation: gravity-based
and positive pressure. In both, salt of various types (table salt,
sea salt, kosher salt, etc.) or concentrations (isotonic vs. hypertonic)
is added to water for the rinse. This is important since salt
is integral to our body composition. You can buy pre-mixed solution,
solution packets to mix with water, or mix your own saline solution.
Gravity-based irrigation typified by the neti
pot allows water to flow naturally in one nostril and out
the other nostril with the head tilted sideways. Positive pressure
irrigation sends the water up into your nostril and through your
sinuses to cleanse away mucus. It gives you more control over
the water flow and research has shown this method to work better.
Products such as Breathe-Ease, Nasaline, SinuAir, SaltAire, SinuCleanse
Squeeze, ActiveSinus, SinusAloe, and NasalCare fall into this
category. Also in the positive pressure category are mechanized
methods of irrigation such as the SinuPulse Elite and Hydro Pulse
that send pulsing streams of water into your nose and sinuses
in a motion that mimics the natural motion of the cilia. All of
these positive pressure devices are effective. Which one you choose
is really a matter of personal preference.
Utilizing methods of cleaning your indoor air are also beneficial
in relieving hay fever symptoms. Ragweed pollen is exceptionally
light so it remains airborne for a long time where it can be captured
by HEPA room air purifiers that pull the air in the room through
a filter by means of a fan. Your HVAC system also pulls air in
your home through a furnace filter. Leaving the system's fan on
all the time during ragweed system can provide extra filtration
by constantly pulling air through the filter where pollen is trapped.
Attaching a filter to your incoming air vents, especially in the
bedroom, captures pollen missed by the furnace filter that is
traveling through your ductwork. --
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