It has spiny-looking leaves, grows in almost every U.S. state, and when its pollen takes to the air, it makes millions of Americans sniffle, sneeze and suffer. Fall allergies are caused by weed pollens, in particular ragweed. There are several varieties of ragweed, but the pollen of the common ragweed is usually the cause of most fall allergies.
Ragweed + pollen = allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), ragweed is a common weed whose flowers, after maturing, release pollen that when airborne can cause as many as 20 percent of Americans to suffer from allergy symptoms. One ragweed plant can have as many as one billion pollen grains.
Pollen count. The pollen count is usually at its highest around dawn. The AAFA says pollen counts in urban areas peak from about 10 a.m. through 3 p.m. A pollen count is measured by counting the number of plant pollen grains from a specific time found in a specific area of air. The National Allergy Bureau (NAB) and the Weather Channel online both offer pollen count data. Fall allergy sufferers can log in and check the pollen count for their local area. Avoiding outside activity when the pollen count is high may help to reduce allergy symptoms.
How long is the fall allergy season? The fall allergy season in the United States runs from about mid-August to the first frost. First frost generally occurs in mid- to late-October; however, warming trends can push the first frost back into November in parts of the country. The cool, dry days of the autumnal season are perfect for the airborne weed pollens. While a rainy fall day can put a damper on outdoor activities, rain can help decrease the pollen count, helping many suffering from seasonal allergies.
Is it fall allergies or a common cold? Fall allergy symptoms usually include itchy, watery eyes, as well as congestion, sneezing and a runny nose. You may suffer from a scratchy throat and even mild fatigue with fall allergies. Usually allergies are not accompanied by aches, pains and fever. Rarely will allergy symptoms include a sore throat or a cough. For some, fall allergies can trigger asthma attacks.
Make it stop! Days can be difficult when sneezes erupt every few minutes or congestion makes you feel simply awful. Fortunately, you can treat the symptoms of fall allergies. Begin by visiting your doctor to discuss your allergy symptoms and to determine their severity. Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications or even a nasal steroid spray. Avoid prolonged exposure to pollen by limiting outdoor time. When outdoors, wear sunglasses to minimize eye exposure to pollen. Keep outdoor clothing such as coats and shoes out of the bedroom, and always wash your hands when you come in from outside. Avoid opening windows to keep the airborne pollen out of your home.