Fall plants and trees bloom profusely as human beings go out to romp and play, but at this time of year many of us fall victim to dreaded fall hayfever--so much so that puffy eyes, runny noses, hacking coughs, and wheezy sneezes are a SURE sign of autumn.
So what causes autumn hay fever? Why it must be that bright yellow flower along the road. Wrong! The yellow inflorescence is one of the Goldenrods, magnificent native wildflowers that get the blame for hay fever when, in reality, it's plain old Common Ragweed that hides in Goldenrod's shadow and is the REAL stealthy sneezemaker.
The term "ragweed" comes from raggedy edges of the leaf, but outdoorsman Jim Casada tells us ragweed actually "got its name from the fact that it occasioned the necessity of constantly going to one's handkerchief, colloquially called a "rag.'"
Ragweed plants usually grow in rural areas. Near the plants, the pollen counts are highest shortly after dawn. The amount of pollen peaks in many urban areas between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., depending on the weather. Rain and low morning temperatures (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) slow pollen release. Ragweed pollen can travel far. It has been measured in the air 400 miles out to sea and 2 miles up in the atmosphere, but most falls out close to its source.
All this misery can begin when ragweeds release pollen into the air, and continue almost until frost kills the plant.
What Can I Do About It?
There is no cure for ragweed allergy. The best control is to avoid contact with the pollen. This is difficult given the amount of ragweed pollen in the air during pollination time. There is help, though.
Track the pollen counts.
Get away from the pollen where possible.
Take antihistamine medications.
If medication does not give enough relief, consider immunotherapy ("allergy shots").