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Don’t Let Ragweed Ruin Your Fall Fun

Allergy image

Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds floats around in the air where it can be inhaled, causing allergy and asthma symptoms for many people. Pollen may travel many miles in the wind, so even trees, grasses, and weeds beyond your immediate area can be the cause of your sneezing and wheezing. Pollen allergies are often seasonal, and allergy and asthma symp­toms occur when the amount of pollen in the air is high.

A grim sign for some allergy and asthma fighters appears as the summer begins to wind down: ragweed and sage­brush pollens begin to show up for the first time in daily pollen counts. Those pollens are potent allergens for many people, causing them to experience the itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezes of seasonal allergies, or hay fever, as well as causing their asthma to become worse.

If you’re allergic to ragweed and sagebrush pollens, you can expect your allergies and asthma to flare up during the months of August and September and possibly longer in different parts of the country. Ragweed and sagebrush pollen levels often persist until the first frost or beyond. It is difficult to predict how bad ragweed allergy season will be or how long it will last.

Ragweed season can make allergy and asthma fighters miserable if they don’t take precautions. Here are some simple measures that can significantly reduce your allergy and asthma symptoms.

Start taking your medications early.
Allergy medications work best if you take them before your immune system has revved up enough to initiate irritating allergy symptoms. Once the immune system is in high gear, medications are less effective and take longer to relieve those symptoms.

It may help to limit your outdoor activities during
the times of highest pollen and mold counts.

Keep outside air out.
The key to eliminating or reducing exposure to pollen is to keep outside air out, or filter it before it comes inside. The normal filters on an air conditioning unit are quite adequate for this. Using swamp coolers is discouraged because of the increased potential for dust mite and mold growth, two common allergens that thrive in humidity.

Consider pollen counts when planning outdoor activities.
It may help to limit your outdoor activities during the times of highest pollen and mold counts. Weed pollens are at their highest levels around midday. Do your gardening and other outdoor activities in the early morning, if possible. Outdoor activities also may be better tolerated after a gentle, sustained rain. If you are outdoors during high pollen counts, take a shower and wash your hair when you come inside. Change your clothes (not in your bedroom) when you come indoors, and leave these clothes in the laundry room. Dry your laundry in a clothes dryer only; avoid hanging clothes outside to dry, where they can collect pollen.

Close your windows, even at night.
Although weed pollens may peak during midday, enough weed pollens continue floating in the air during the night to plague people with allergies. If you need some cool air, turn on the air conditioning instead of opening your windows. You should drive with your windows closed as well. If it is hot, use your air conditioner.

Wash your hands frequently.
You can easily pick pollen up on your hands by touching door handles, running your hands through your hair after you’ve been outside, or touching other outdoor surfaces. If you rub your eyes or nose with those pollen-covered hands, you can launch a full-blown allergy attack. Washing your hands reduces the chances that you will get pollen in your eyes or nose.

Beware of melons and bananas.
People who are allergic to ragweed may feel a tingling or burning in their mouths after eating cantaloupe, honey­dew melon, watermelon, or bananas. These fruits may cause these symptoms year-round but are even more likely to do so during ragweed season.

Keep pets that spend time outdoors out of the bedroom.
In addition to ani­mal dander allergens, they may carry and deposit pollen stuck to their fur.


Source: National Jewish Health,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2013.