Friday, August 20, 2010

Achoo Ville

Common Ragweed


Stinging Nettle

Of the three allergen producing plants listed as pollinating right now, Ragweed for outweighs all the others in causing pollen allergies.

Ragweed, a tall, branched plant, is native to North America and found throughout the lower 48 states on dry fields, pastures, roadsides and construction sites. Each plant can produce a billion pollen grains every day during an average season from August until October. Ragweed is the prime cause of Hay Fever. It produces more pollen in wet years.

When you breathe in an allergen like pollen, it gets filtered out and lodges in the mucus that lines the nasal passages. There, in a sensitized individual, it encounters mast cells, which react by releasing histamine and other mediators. The histamine causes blood vessels in the nose to dilate and leak fluid into the surrounding tissue. When the fluid seeps into the surrounding tissue, it causes swelling, itching and inflammation. Histamine also causes symptoms of runny nose, itchy nose, and itchy and watery eyes.

Mast cells are also found in the mucous membranes lining your eyes (called conjunctiva), so if an allergen gets into your eye, you may have itchy, red, watery eyes. They also are found in your lungs and digestive tract, and in your skin.

Sometimes your allergies may also affect your sinuses, the air-filled cavities lined with mucous membranes in the bones surrounding the nose.

The pollen indicator uses a scale of zero to twelve. Today it is 10.10 in this area. Sunday is predicted to be 11.3. This information may be obtained from You then enter your zip code and weather information will become available. If you will look on the left side of the page, the pollen index has a "point & click" where the four day pollen forecast is listed. Or at

The best action for those suffering from pollen related allergens is exposure prevention. For the gardener, this is like saying "Don't touch soil." I was a prime recipient of pollen allergens yesterday as we cleared the garden. By the time we had finished I was having trouble taking full breaths, my nose had pretty much closed and I had a headache. Did I mention sneezing???

Pollen counts are highest between 5 - 10 AM and on dry, hot and windy days. Some hints:

  • Avoid the outdoors between 5-10 AM. Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain, when pollen levels are lower.
  • Keep windows in your home and car closed to lower exposure to pollen. In the car, have the air on recirculating. To keep cool, use air conditioners and avoid using window and attic fans. Change or wash your AC filters often.
  • Be aware that pollen can also be transported indoors on people and pets.
    If you suffer from allergies, your body doesn't accommodate temperature changes well. Something as simple as your warm feet hitting the colder floor can trigger coughing and sneezing. Have a cup of hot tea before getting out of bed to help.
  • Use unscented lipstick. Avoid odorous lotions and perfumes.
  • The moth flakes in your bedroom closet can add to allergies, so keep those closet doors air tight. Room deodorizers add to the allergy symptoms.
  • Avoid spicy food, hot peppers, etc. No iced drinks.
  • Dry your clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside. Otherwise pollen can collect on clothing and be carried indoors. Change your clothes when you come inside.
  • If you must be outdoors, wear a mask.
  • Don’t drive behind a diesel truck, car or bus.
  • Don't let pets go outside - they bring the pollen in on their fir. Keep them out of your bedroom.
    Avoid smoke and smoking.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water every week.
  • One symptom is chronic fatigue - rest if you feel tired because it may help relieve symptoms.
  • Drink lots of tap or water without ice.
  • If your symptoms increase, breathing becomes difficult, and pain or severe pressure in your sinus area, seek professional medical help. Otherwise, for everyday pollen allergies, there are many OTC reliefs available. Remember: prevention is better than treatment.

Now - achooooooooooooooooooooooo and where did I leave the box of tissues? provided much of the tips and a google search for the photos on this page. Hay - we're all in this together.

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