When Is Ragweed Season?

In between late summer and early fall, you’ll see weeds emerging from the soil, blooming and releasing their pollen into the open air.

While this can be an annoying sight for gardeners, it can also be worrisome for people with allergies.

Ragweed is not only one of the worst allergy culprits, but it’s becoming stronger, growing more and further through the U.S.

10-20% of Americans suffer from ragweed allergies in the late summer. And the symptoms make day to day life pretty awful. In fact, it can be a dangerous allergy as it causes asthma attacks for some sufferers.

When ragweed plants release their pollen into the air, the repercussions can make affect sufferers for 6-10 weeks or until the first frost kills the plant.

In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about ragweed season so that you can catch and battle your allergies before they conquer you.


What Is Ragweed?

Ragweed

First thing’s first:

Ragweed is a member of the daisy family that grows small yellow-green flowers which produce large amounts of pollen. In fact, these flowers produce a million grains per plant, every day.

Which is one of the reasons why this plant does such an excellent job at affecting so many allergy sufferers.


Where Is Ragweed Found?

Ragweed

You’ll find ragweed throughout rural areas in the U.S., usually in the Midwestern and Eastern states. More specifically, you’ll be able to find ragweed in gardens, fields, roadsides, vacant lots, river banks, and waste locations.

Perennial plants and turf grasses actually overgrow ragweed easily. However, when farming, chemical use or salt from the roads affect the soil, ragweed will grow.

Seeds in the soil may stay dormant for many years until the conditions are right to grow, and once they start, they will continue to.

Near ragweed, pollen counts are the highest immediately after dawn. The amount of pollen spikes in urban areas around 10am and 3pm, weather dependent.

However even if you don’t live close to any of these areas, ragweed can travel far. In fact, it’s been found to travel 400 miles out to sea and 2 miles up in the air. That means when pollen season is on, the sky’s the limit.

How does this happen?

When mid-August nights become longer, ragweed flowers grow and release their pollen into the air. Warm weather and breezes help release the pollen.

After that, the pollen travels through the air, off to another plant to fertilize the seed, allowing a new plant to grow the following year.

And thus begins a new year and new allergy season for thousands of allergy sufferers to loath over.

What Is A Ragweed Allergy?

So, as you probably know, your immune system’s job is to track and eliminate foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

This system usually protects us from diseases and illnesses. People with allergies have more sensitive immune systems that may react unfavorably once they come into contact with allergens.

If you are allergic to ragweed pollen, you may experience hay fever symptoms after inhaling it from the air.

Some hay fever symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Puffy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Throat irritation or phlegm

There are seventeen different types of ragweed that grow in North America.

Ragweed belongs to a larger plant family that also spread pollen by wind. While ragweed creates the greatest amount of allergy issues, some of these plants from its family can also produce symptoms.

Members of the ragweed plant family are:

  • Burweed marsh elder
  • Mugworts
  • Sage
  • Rabbit brush
  • Eupatorium
  • Groundsel bush

While most of these family members spread their pollen by wind, some are spread by insects. These plants cause fewer allergic reactions due to their pollen distributing nature. However, sniffing these plants can create symptoms.

What Special Individuals Get Ragweed Allergies?

Since ragweed allergy is a type of pollen allergy, 75% of people who are allergic to pollen, are also allergic to ragweed.

If you have an allergy to a certain type of pollen, chances are you’ll develop allergies to other types of pollen (unfortunately).

If you suffer from a ragweed allergy, you may also experience symptoms when eating these foods:

  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupes
  • Chamomile tea
  • Honey containing pollen from specific plants
  • Sunflower seeds

If you’re allergic to pollen, it’s best to avoid these foods to avoid any allergy flare up.

If you can’t make a correlation between ragweed and bananas, don’t worry – it’s understandable.

The reason people with ragweed and pollen allergies flare up after being in contact with these foods is because the proteins found in them are very similar to the proteins found in types of pollen such as ragweed pollen.

These proteins confuse the immune system which causes allergic reactions or already existing symptoms to worsen.

This may be a bit confusing since many of these foods are considered healthy choices. However, your immune system thinks otherwise.

Chamomile tea, in particular, is a great beverage to help you unwind after a long day.

However, a couple sips later, you may be sneezing and experiencing a runny nose as opposed to a chilled out vibe.

Chamomile and ragweed proteins are so similar, drinking a cup of chamomile tea can give you some of the worst pollen allergy symptoms.

In fact, if you don’t have an allergy, chamomile tea can actually set them off.

How Are Ragweed Allergies Diagnosed?

Once you visit a doctor, you’ll probably be asked about your medical history and will go through an allergy test and physical exam. They may perform a skin prick test to confirm the allergy.

For scratch or prick testing, the nurse or doctor puts a small drop of ragweed pollen liquid on the skin. They will then scratch or lightly prick your skin with a needle through the drop.

If you are sensitive to ragweed, redness, swelling and itching will appear on or around the area within 15 minutes.

Depending on the situation, your doctor may also take a blood test to see whether or not you have an antibody to ragweed.

How Can You Lessen The Ragweed Woes?

Unfortunately, there’s no actual cure for ragweed allergy.

The best way to control and lesson the symptoms is to take prescribes medications. Also, try your best to avoid contact with the ragweed pollen.

Even though it’s very difficult to avoid this type of pollen during the pollination season, due to its travel-friendly ways, there are some ways to reduce contact:

  1. Track pollen count for your area: The media often talks about the count for certain areas, especially when pollen levels are high. You can also get your specific area pollen counts by visiting the National Allergy Bureau.
  2. Stay inside with air conditioning: When pollen count is at a high level, stay indoors and crank the AC. Air conditioning removes pollen from the air indoors. You can also buy a certified allergy and asthma friendly HEPA filter to plug into your AC for extra protection.
  3. Remove yourself from the pollen whenever possible: This is for people living in the Midwestern or Eastern states. By moving to the Rocky Mountains, going to sea or traveling abroad, you’ll be able to lessen your exposure to the pesky pollen. Make sure to do your research on the location you’re going to before buying a ticket – you don’t want to be stuck in a pollen-filled country with a big travel bill!
  4. Take an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory medication: Many medicines today work well at controlling allergy symptoms. They can also help with asthma, nose and eye symptoms, without causing drowsiness. They can also be bought conveniently over the counter.

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Final Thoughts On Ragweed Season

So now that you know that ragweed season begins mid-August (flares up late-August) and ends when the first frost falls, you can begin your exit/protection/survival plan for this season.

If your allergy symptoms are really bad, or if you’re looking for long-term relief, you should ask your doctor about allergy shots. They can help you reduce allergic responses with certain allergens such as ragweed, and can relieve symptoms for years or even decades.

Remember, you’re not alone on this — and knowledge is power.

Use that to your benefit this allergy season!

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