Ragweed pollen in Washington D.C.

Ragweed is the highest cause of allergenic rhinitis in North America and will be making its annual visit to the D.C. area in the next couple of weeks. Thus far, pollen counts for Ragweed are relatively low.

Susan Kosisky, the Chief Microbiologist at the US Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab stated in the pollen count last week, "I thought I was sneezing a bit more than usual this past weekend and concluded there just may be some ragweed in the air. Today we saw the first ragweed pollen of the season, which is not unusual for the last week in July. Ragweed is our most prolific area weed pollen producer. We document about 39% of the total annual ragweed pollen load in August, 57% in September, and 4% in October."

From a pollen report last season, she stated, "The first week of August is when we usually start to see the first glimpses of ragweed season. By the second week in August, daily average totals are around 4 grains/cubic meter of air."

She did note, however, that the latter part of August through early September is usually the point when ragweed really begins to increase in the D.C. area.

Ragweed plant

Ragweed, shown above, are annual or perennial herbs that range from small plants 3 feet tall up to 13 feet tall (Great Ragweed). 21 species of ragweed occur in North America, but most allergy problems are caused by just two species which account for more hay fever (bodies reaction to the pollen) than all other plants together. One single plant can release up to a billion pollen grains in a season. Pollen grains have been recorded around 400 miles out at sea and up to 2 miles up in the atmosphere, so the pollen can travel exceptionally far.

How can you beat the pollen? Here are a few tips.

Stay indoors as much as possible during high pollen days (We will let you know when those days are!)

Keeps windows in your house and car shut as much as possible

Change clothes after being outdoors for a prolonged period of time

Shower before bed to wash off pollen

Equip your home with HEPA air filters

Remember to take your allergy medications (Claritin is my friend during the late summer and early fall!)

Wet and humid conditions are usually good during ragweed season as it doesn't allow pollen to disperse in the atmosphere as much as it would if it were dry and windy. So while days like this weekend would be good, the low humidity, full sunshine days may not be what you want if you're an allergy sufferer.

If you plan on traveling this fall, you may also want to take your allergy medications with you, as the ragweed season is longer the farther south you travel. Some species don't pollinate until the winter months in Florida.

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