Ragweed. Who would think that a tiny green flower could make us miserable with a stuffy, runny nose, itchy throat and eyes? This member of the daisy family is the culprit for hay fever, also known as ragweed allergies.
Ragweed season rears its ugly head in late summer through November. Pollen counts in most regions of the country are the highest levels in mid-September.
Some people with hay fever also develop asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing.
People whose parents or siblings have allergies to plant pollen are more likely to develop ragweed allergies. Also, people who have allergies to dust, animals, grass or mold tend to develop allergies to pollens, and people who already have an allergy to one type of plant pollen tend to develop allergies to other pollens.
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Seasonal allergies develop when the body's immune system in a genetically susceptible person becomes sensitized and makes allergic antibodies to something in the environment that causes no problem in most people. To avoid or limit contact with ragweed pollen:
■ Wash your hands often.
■ Limit time outdoors when ragweed counts are high and avoid mid-day when counts peak.
■ Wear a dust mask if working outside.
■ Don't wear outdoor work clothes inside to avoid bringing pollen in the house.
■ Clean and replace HVAC filters often using HEPA filters that remove at least 99 percent of pollen and other particles.
Kentucky recently has experienced an unusual amount of rainfall, and pollen counts can soar after rain. Ragweed pollen thrives during cool nights and warm days. Mold grows quickly in heat and high humidity.
Preparing for ragweed season now might avoid misery later. Some allergy medicines should be taken one to two weeks before ragweed season begins. Ask your allergist which medicine(s) you should take, and begin your regimen now.