If you're sneezing, stuffy, itchy-
Ragweed allergy may be the culprit. The weed is responsible for more pollen asthma and allergies than any other weed in North America. And it's poised to get worse this week.
David Gant has been taking allergy medication in hopes of softening the beating ragweed gives him every year around this time. Sometimes his eyes become swollen shut and his breathing so difficult that he has to get an emergency injection to counteract the symptoms.
"Some years it has been pretty debilitating," Gant said.
He and his wife, Kristi, began suffering from the allergies once they started farming and ranching a few years ago northwest of Oklahoma City.
"There's ragweed everywhere. If you're mowing and run into it, it really tears you up," he said. "When you spread the pollen, within minutes your eyes are burning, nose is watering, and it just goes downhill from there."
The Oklahoma Allergy & Asthma Clinic is seeing many patients allergic to ragweed and the pollen level hasn't even yet reached the high alert category, said Dr. Warren Filley. Grass, weeds and mold were all at high levels on Monday, according to the pollen counts reported on the clinic's website at oklahomaallergy.com
Ragweed starts driving sufferers crazy about the first week of September, with shortly after dawn being the worst time.
Pollen.com is predicting very high levels of weed pollen, principally ragweed, through Thursday in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.
Ragweed gets busy through September in Oklahoma, where giant ragweed is the most prevalent and can grow 15 feet tall in drainage ditches, undisturbed areas and along roads.
The common ragweed is only somewhat less prevalent and grows beautifully to 2 to 4 feet in fields for crops, Joe Armstrong, Oklahoma State University extension weed specialist said. Western ragweed is similar but common in heavily grazed pastures and rangeland.
"It's a substantial plant, that's for sure," he said.
The plants are pollinating because they're nearing their death spiral as time for a killing freeze approaches. The prolific pests produce one billion pollen grains per plant.
"They outnumber us by quite a bit. So they're a real problem," Armstrong said.
First freeze kills it
Jeri Brown said she's only too familiar with how the green hand-like plant grabs her by the throat every late summer and early fall. It all starts with sneezing, eventually followed by other cold-like symptoms, for her.
"Until the first freeze. Then poof, it's gone," she said.
The earliest the Oklahoma City metro area has had a freeze was Oct. 5.
The average date for a freeze is Nov. 4 or Nov. 5, according to the National Weather Service in
Until then, Filley said, sufferers should be tested to ensure the problem
Saltwater rinses of the nose, wearing a mask while outside and staying inside where the air is filtered are other ways to help alleviate problems.
For some, ragweed is nothing to be trifled with, he said.
"If they're not already taking medications, it can rapidly get out of hand and they can get quite severely ill," Filley said.