High ragweed levels cause Central Texans allergies

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by JENNIE HUERTA / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on October 4, 2010 at 6:31 PM

If you are an allergy sufferer, your itchy throat, watery eyes, and sneezing nose have already let you know that the ragweed count is high.  Doctors and KVUE Storm Team Meteorologists say ragweed is especially abundant this year.  It is one of the most problematic plants for allergy sufferers in Central Texas. 

Ragweed is prolific in Austin, and KVUE News had no trouble finding it.  At heights of up to 13 feet, it stands tall above other weeds.  The yellow pollen seen on the plant’s unique-looking spikes is making its way into upper respiratory systems of Central Texans including Corliss Miller.  She does not know what the ragweed looks like, only how it makes her feel.

“I start feeling like I get the flu-like symptoms, just terrible runny nose, eyes itching, the whole thing,” Miller said. 

KVUE Storm Team Meteorologist Albert Ramon checks the ragweed count each day. Last Thursday, the KVUE Storm Team measured the most they have ever seen at the station: 1344 grains of pollen per cubic meter of air.  Ramon says the reason is the weather.

“We had record rainfall,” Ramon says. When you have a lot of rainfall, you have a lot of weeds. You get a lot of ragweed, which just spreads quicker, thicker.  Add these dry days we've had the last few days we've had this week and it'll just spread like wildfire.” 

Ragweed pollen makes the body produce histamines, according to Dr.Bill Howland with the Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin. 

“Because histamines are being released, antihistamines are very helpful,” Dr. Howland said. “You can use them in pills, eye drops and nasal spray.” 

Dr. Howland says it is too late for the best course of action against the raging ragweed.

“The problem with allergy shots is you need to start them about six months before the season comes so that you're less allergic,” Dr. Howland says.  “If you start allergy shots now, they won't help with ragweed this year.”

Dr. Howland predicts ragweed season will be extended this year. 

“This year, I bet there's still going to be some ragweed pollen in November, when cedar starts in November, so we're going to see an overlap when most people get a few weeks' break,” Dr. Howland says.

For now, Corliss Miller says she can’t enjoy the beautiful weather. 

“It's gorgeous, but when you hear people say, 'Oh, let's open the windows,' I know I can't open my windows,” Miller says.   “That doesn't work because I'm taking in all of whatever is blooming, be it ragweed, mold or whatever is blooming.  So I can't do that, when it's beautiful weather, ‘Let's open the windows,’ I can't do that.”   

That will be the case until at least January, when cedar season comes to a close.

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