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How to Handle Ragweed Season

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Photo: New Africa (Shutterstock)

If you have fall allergies, the time is nearly upon us for sneezing and itching. (Depending on where you live, it may have already begun.) Here are some tips for how to deal with the pollen and manage your symptoms.

Know what ragweed actually looks like

Ragweed irritates our eyes and noses because of its wind-blown pollen, which means that you don’t have to be right next to a ragweed plant to be affected by it. But it still helps to know what the culprit is, so that you can pull the weeds during your summer gardening and make sure not to stand next to a meadow full of it during the fall.

The difference between ragweed and goldenrod

Many of us envision a plant covered in tiny, almost powdery-looking yellow flowers. That is not ragweed, but its innocent and beautiful compatriot, goldenrod. Ragweed is green, with nearly invisible tiny green flowers. The confusion arises because they tend to bloom around the same time, sometimes even side by side with each other. So you sneeze, look around, and you see goldenrod. It’s worth learning the difference.

About 15% of us are allergic to ragweed, but there are other fall-blooming plants that can cause allergies, including lamb’s quarters, sagebrush, and tumbleweed. Which brings us to our next point.

See an allergist

An allergist can help you figure out what you’re allergic to. Besides ragweed and other autumnal plant life, sometimes allergies that start in the fall can come from year-round sources, like dust mites or pet dander that you don’t really notice until you start spending more time inside.

There are immunotherapies that can sometimes help, including prescription tablets that dissolve under your tongue. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology points out, though, that you need to start taking these 12 weeks before allergy season starts—meaning that you should start taking them in late spring if you want to be protected by the end of summer.

How to control for the pollen

Airborne pollen can get everywhere. It’s in the air, of course, so you’ll want to keep windows closed, even if you do enjoy a nice fall breeze. Running the air conditioner in your car may be a better choice than driving down the highway with the windows down.

To filter out pollen that does make it into your house, consider running an air purifier, either for the whole house or just in your bedroom. (I have spring allergies and dust allergies, and an air purifier by my bed was an absolute game changer in being able to rest without constant allergy symptoms.)

Then, consider other ways pollen might come in from outside. Pollen can stick to your clothes, so it’s a good idea to change your clothes when you come home, and to shower and wash your hair if you’ve been outside a lot that day. Definitely do not wear your pollen-coated clothes to bed.

Pets can also carry pollen on their fur, so be aware; you may want to give your pet a bath more often, or limit their access to the outdoors if that’s appropriate for them. At the least, wash your hands after petting them.

Weather apps can give you pollen counts for the day. This is where knowing what you’re allergic to really helps, so you can check on ragweed pollen if that’s the one that bothers you. Pollen travels the most on windy, warm, dry days, so be extra vigilant in that weather. Rainy, cold, and calm days will be a bit of a relief.

 

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