Come fall, while others are thinking about pumpkins, football, and raking leaves, you’re thinking about your ragweed misery. Get help to control your fall allergies.
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Seasonal allergies, including fall allergies, affect more than 35 million Americans and cost the U.S. economy more than $7 billion in lost productivity.
Fall Allergies: Understanding Allergens
“Inhalant allergens are substances that can trigger allergy symptoms when inhaled by sensitive people,” explains Bruce Gordon, MD, an ear, nose, and throat allergy specialist at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass., and an instructor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
“Inhalant allergens are divided into two types on the basis of their persistence: perennial and seasonal,” Dr. Gordon says. “Perennial allergens are present throughout the year, with little variation. Seasonal allergens have distinct periods of time in which they are present in the environment in large quantities.”
Gordon says that plants typically pollinate in three seasons: “These seasons vary in length as a function of the growing season. In the spring, trees pollinate. In the summer months, especially in early summer, grasses pollinate. Finally, in late summer and into fall, weeds pollinate.”
Fall Allergies: Ragweed
One of the main contributors to fall allergies is the ragweed plant. A single plant can produce one billion pollen grains per season. Ragweed grows abundantly throughout the South, North, and Midwest, and its lightweight pollen grains can travel up to 400 miles in the wind.
“Ragweed pollen has a very distinct season from late summer to mid-fall,” says Gordon. “East of the Rocky Mountains, ragweed is the predominant cause of outdoor fall allergy symptoms.” Ragweed can be found growing in vacant lots, along the road, and in open fields. “In areas with colder temperatures, the first frost usually occurs at about the time ragweed pollination ends. In Southern regions, ragweed may pollinate through the winter,” notes Gordon.
Fall Allergies: Other Weeds
In various parts of the country, goldenrod, curly dock, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, sheep sorrel, and sagebrush can all cause fall allergies. “Goldenrod blooms at the same time that ragweed does, but it is insect-pollinated