If you find yourself reaching for the tissue box more due to increased sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, you may be one of the nearly 36 million Americans suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as “hay fever”.
The Number One Cause of Fall Hay Fever
Ragweed, the number one cause of fall hay fever symptoms in the United States, is the third and final phase of Mother nature’s annual pollination process.
What Is Ragweed?
Ragweed, a yellow flowering weed, is a member of the Aster Family that often flourishes in disturbed vacant soils which can not support other vegetation. It flourishes during dry hot spells which promote growth and pollen formation. If these conditions continue through late summer then pollen dispersal is very high. The only deterrent to making it difficult for the plant to release its pollen is relative humidity that exceeds 70 percent.
When Is Ragweed Pollen Season?
The pollination of ragweed occurs nearly the same time each year and lasts between six and eight weeks. In north central Texas area (Dallas Fort Worth), the season ranges from mid-August through November or until the first frost.
In many areas, however, ragweed pollen levels usually peak in mid September.
One ragweed plant is capable of producing over a billion grains of pollen per season!! In the United States, it is estimated that ragweed produces 100 million tons of pollen each year. No wonder allergies symptoms run wild in the fall!
Types of Ragweed
Although there are several species of ragweed, most ragweed allergy problems are caused by two species which populate nearly every region in the United States. These two species are Ambrosia aratemisiifolia, also known as short or normal ragweed, and Ambrosia trifida, also known as giant ragweed. Short ragweed can grow to be four feet tall and giant ragweed can grow to be 15 feet tall.
Ragweed is more prevalent in the midwest and central United States. There are few places known to be ragweed-free, although Portland, OR. and Seattle, WA. claim to have no ragweed season. There are cities with very mild seasons such as Salt Lake City, UT. and Bangor, ME.
The cross-reactive allergens linked to ragweed include honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, banana, and chamomile. Avoidance of these foods is usually recommended to reduce compounding symptoms. A cross-reaction to ragweed pollen may cause oral allergy syndrome, which is itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or roof of the mouth.
Marsh elder, golden rod, and mugwort pollen, ragweed’s botanical relatives, may also cause problems for those allergic to ragweed.
There are also several other flowering weeds that cross react with ragweed. This is why ragweed is bothersome for alot of people.
Antihistamines, decongestants, and steroid nose sprays are used to alleviate the allergic reactions caused by ragweed. If these don’t work effectively, then immunotherapy may be needed to reduce the body’s sensitivity to the allergen.
If you would like to have allergy testing please call our office at 972-492-6990. Most insurance companies are covering allergy testing.
More Pictures of Ragweed