Causes of fall allergies

The Most Common Fall Allergies

“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 and is not a significant allergen for most individuals,” Gordon says. “The bright goldenrod flower, however, does alert everyone that the more inconspicuous ragweed is also blooming.”

Fall Allergies: Molds

Outdoor molds are another cause of fall allergies. They first appear in early spring, but thrive until the first frost. They are common in soil, compost piles, and in the leaves that cover the ground during the fall. “In temperate climates, mold spores form a distinct fall season in mid to late fall, after ragweed season is over. Mold spores are common airborne allergens. They are light, very small, and easily inhaled into the lungs. Spores rise high in the atmosphere during the warming of the day, falling back to the ground with the cool of evening,” says Gordon.

Fall Allergies: Protecting Yourself

If you have fall allergies, you should be extra cautious on windy days and in the morning. “Wind-pollinated plants such as ragweed have specialized male flowers that produce huge amounts of buoyant pollen, easily released into the wind. Pollen is most often released in the mornings,” Gordon says, cautioning that people who are allergic to pollen have strong sensitivities in the morning.

Here are some other precautions you can take:

  • Use a face mask when you are outside, especially between 5 and 10 a.m. and on windy days.
  • Remove pollen from your skin and hair by showering frequently.
  • Keep your windows closed and turn on the air conditioner.
  • Dry your clothes inside in the dryer instead of hanging clothes outside.
  • Have decaying leaves removed from your yard and gutters.
  • If you rake leaves in the fall, wear a face mask.
  • When you first turn on your car air conditioner, leave your windows open and avoid breathing the air for several minutes until mold spores can disperse.

Fall Allergies: Don’t Suffer in Silence

If your symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, or itchy and watery eyes get worse in the fall, you probably have an outdoor fall allergy. Eighty percent of people with seasonal allergies complain about these symptoms as well as problems with sleeping, being tired, having poor concentration, and decreased productivity at school or work.

But treatment is available. “Many can be helped with modern medical treatments, if they would only complain to their doctors and get tested to detect possible allergies,” urges Gordon.

This article was medically reviewed by Raj Dasgupta, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and a member of the Prevention Medical Review Board, on August 19, 2019.

Thought you left the seasonal sniffles with your sandals and sundresses? Not so fast. Spring isn’t the only season that can make you suffer—autumn can also be a red-eyed, runny-nosed minefield.

When you’re dealing with seasonal allergies, your immune system is trying to fight off a substance you’re sensitive to by releasing histamine, which leads to unpleasant symptoms, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). These irritants can include specific types of mold, pollen, and weeds, which all pick up toward the end of summer.

But once you learn to spot the symptoms and identify your triggers, you should have no issues managing your fall allergies. Here’s everything you need to know to get through the season.

What are the symptoms of fall allergies?

  • Watery, itchy, or generally irritated eyes
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Rashes or hives on the skin
  • Itchy throat
  • Aggravated asthma symptoms, including coughing or wheezing
  • In severe cases, trouble breathing or anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction)

What allergens are high in the fall?

About 23 million Americans experience allergy symptoms in response to ragweed pollen. ElenathewiseGetty Images

Weeds and pollen become rampant during longer summers

Balmy temperatures let much of the country hit the beach for a few extra weeks each year—but while your spirits soar, so do ragweed and pollen counts.

“Counts usually drop significantly by the first week of September,” explains Joseph Leija, MD, founder of the Gottlieb Allergy Count, which provides the official allergy count for the Midwest. But when it gets rainy, grasses and weeds grow out of control depending on where you live. This can include the following:

  • Ragweed
  • Goldenrod
  • Sagebrush
  • Mugwort
  • Cocklebur
  • Pigweed
  • Tumbleweed
  • Burning brush
  • Lamb’s-quarters
  • Mugwort

More weeds means more pollen, a big cause of hay fever (aka rhinitis), Dr. Leija explains, which affects up to 60 million Americans each year.

Ragweed in particular seems to wreak havoc between August and November, reaching peak levels in mid-September. Just one ragweed plant can product up to 1 billion pollen grains and it can travel far, especially in the Eastern and Midwestern parts of the country, the AAFA says.

Mold becomes a bigger issue

Nothing looks more quintessentially autumn than leaves falling into big piles. But once foliage starts to decay, it becomes a breeding ground for mold. Breathing in spores can aggravate asthma and cause heavy breathing, wheezing, and other upper respiratory symptoms in those with mold allergies.

Damp basements are another common source of mold. Dr. Leija suggests placing a dehumidifier downstairs—whether the rooms are finished or not—and cleaning any filters for your furnace, which could be pushing airborne mold spores into your upper floors.

How you’re making your allergies worse during fall

Getty Images

You’re soaking up the great outdoors

As you should be! We can’t think of better ways to enjoy the beautiful fall weather than farmers’ markets and morning hikes. But if you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, any time spent outdoors can stir up symptoms. You don’t have to head inside for good, but do reconsider your timing.

“Pollen counts are highest from early morning until 10 a.m., so try to postpone your activity until later in the day,” suggests Rachna Shah, MD, allergist and faculty member of Loyola School of Medicine.

You let the outside in

“Mold spores and pollen can stick to everything, including hair, skin, and clothing,” Dr. Shah says. You probably don’t even realize you’re doing it, but there’s a good chance you’re tracking irritants into the house. Minimize your risk with the following tips:

Wear a face mask (like this one) when you rake leaves outdoors to avoid breathing in mold spores.

Throw your clothes into the washer and head straight for the shower when you’re done biking or gardening,

Brush or wipe down pets after walks. Pollen can hitchhike into your home—and onto your couch, bed, or wherever else your dog likes to hang out.

Leave your shoes outside. Forget dirt and mud—you could be traipsing pollen and mold throughout the house. No outside area? Keep them in a separate closet.

Close the windows. Be sure to do this on windy or high pollen count days, and especially if you live near a busy road. “Pollution is an irritant to those with respiratory allergies,” says Dr. Leija. Can’t bear having no fresh air? PollenTEC makes clean air window and door screens that filter dust, pollen, and exhaust soot so you can enjoy the fall breeze while it lasts.

You’re not consistent with your medication

It takes you three months to use up your 30-day supply of OTC allergy meds and you get your allergy shots only when you’re feeling crummy. Sound familiar? Compliance is what both Dr. Shah and Dr. Leija cite as the biggest reason their patients can’t get ahead of their symptoms.

“It takes about two to three days for allergy medicine to kick in,” explains Dr. Leija. And you can’t just stop when you feel better or when the pollen count in your area is low. “Pollen counts vary so much by the weather and the barometric pressure,” he explains, so consistently taking your medication on days when numbers are low will prep you for when they surge again.

How are fall allergies treated?

If autumn hits and you’re constantly sneezing or dealing with itchy eyes, it’s likely that you’re allergic to something in the air. Allergies don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to treatment, but the AAFA says there are several over-the-counter options you can try to keep your symptoms at bay:

Nasal corticosteroids or decongestants both work to minimize nasal swelling, which causes a stuffy, runny, or itchy nose. Just note that you should limit decongestant use to a day or two, otherwise your symptoms may get worse. Try NasalCrom Nasal Allergy Symptom Controller.

Claritin 24-Hour Non-Drowsy Allergy RediTabs $17.61

Corticosteroid creams and ointments help treat itchy rashes and keeps them from getting worse. Try Cortizone-10 Maximum Strength. See your doctor if you don’t see improvement within a week.

Antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers come in variety of forms, like tablets, liquids, and nose sprays. Because they block the release of histamine, you should see an improvement in common symptoms like sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and hives. Try Claritin 24 Hour Non-Drowsy Allergy RediTabs.

Be sure to discuss these treatments with your allergist, who may also recommend allergy shots, prescription-strength meds, or carrying an EpiPen if your symptoms become severe.

Additional reporting by Alisa Hrustic

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Nina Elias Nina Elias is a Syracuse University graduate (Go Orange!) with a love for natural beauty, Broadway, brain health, and the eternal search for the perfect bedroom paint color.

How to Avoid the Most Common Fall Allergy Triggers

As summer gives way to fall and the days get shorter, chillier and more hectic, many of us brace for irritating fall allergy symptoms. In fact, from late August until the first hard frost, about 20 percent of people experience seasonal allergies, and the unrelenting coughing and sneezing that go with it.

Your immune system is designed to protect your body against invading organisms that can make you sick. But when you have an allergy, your immune system mistakes an allergen—normally a harmless substance—for an invader, which causes symptoms like sneezing, red or itchy eyes, itchy ears, a runny nose and a hoarse, itchy or sore throat.

You don’t have to spend autumn in a haze. If you tend to develop these bothersome symptoms each fall, you can take steps to prevent or ease your seasonal misery.

Identify fall allergens
The first step is to identify the fall allergens that trigger your itchiness, congestion and other aggravating symptoms.

Weeds: These are some of the worst offenders. People can experience allergy symptoms all year long, but certain allergens are abundant at different times. ” allergies are due in a large part to ragweed and other similar weed pollens,” says Mark Schecker, MD, an allergist at Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

As many as 23 million Americans have seasonal allergic rhinitis or “hay fever,” which may be triggered by ragweed pollen. This fine dust can be released by 17 different types of ragweed and is carried by wind, meaning that every breath you take could trigger a reaction. Ragweed grows from August to November, peaking in the middle of September.

Less common weeds like goldenrod, curly dock, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, sheep sorrel and sagebrush can also set off seasonal allergy symptoms.

Mold: This fungus is another leading allergy trigger. Mold can lurk in bathrooms, air vents, garbage cans and other parts of your home, triggering allergy symptoms any time of the year. But outdoor mold spores, which spread through the air, are especially plentiful during the fall.

Spores set up shop in piles of leaves, foliage-filled gutters and other damp areas that provide the food, air, temperature and water they need to grow. Mold is often thought to be a warm-weather allergen, but in some places, mold spores don’t reach their peak until October. They can spread not only when it’s humid but also when it’s dry and windy. Mold allergy symptoms include nasal congestion, irritated eyes and coughing.

School allergens: Aside from outdoor allergens, students, parents and teachers may be exposed to allergens in the classroom. Some culprits may include chalk dust and classroom pets.

Talk to your healthcare provider (HCP) if you’re unsure of what’s causing your seasonal allergy symptoms. There are tests, such as allergy skin testing, which can help identify the culprits.

Avoid top triggers
Once you’ve identified your seasonal allergy triggers, you can take steps to avoid them or reduce your exposure. During the fall, weed pollen counts are highest in the mornings between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. It’s a good idea to avoid spending long periods of time outside during this window of time.

If you do venture out in the morning hours, be aware that you may bring pollen back inside with you, cautions Dr. Schecker. “Pollen sticks to your hair, skin and clothes, and that may be a hidden source of pollen you may not be aware of,” he says. “If you’re outdoors, consider changing clothes or even showering as soon as you come inside.”

To avoid outdoor mold allergens, leave doors and windows closed, check mold counts before venturing out and remain inside (with the air conditioner on) when counts are high. Whenever possible, leave the leaf raking, lawn mowing and gutter cleaning to someone else. Keep your indoor surfaces, especially the warm, damp ones, spotless, and use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels low.

Know you treatment options
If you suspect you have seasonal allergies, it’s important to reach out to your HCP about lifestyle changes or treatments that could help provide you with some relief. If you know you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer, discuss your options before your symptoms arise.

Over-the-counter antihistamines, eye drops or oral medications could help, as can steroid nasal sprays and decongestants. Be sure to talk to your HCP before trying any over-the-counter remedies. If these medications fail to provide relief, your HCP may prescribe a stronger medication. “You might have to combine two or even three medicines to get the relief you’re looking for,” Schecker says.

Some people with more severe seasonal allergies may benefit from allergy shots, Schecker adds. “There is no cure for allergies, but allergy shots can treat the underlying cause,” he says. “After we determine what you’re allergic to, by giving you a test, we can create a specific vaccine and give appropriate shots.”

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

Allergic to Flowers? Try these 10 Hypoallergenic Flowers

Flowers are strongly associated with the spring season and so are allergies. If you’re someone who is allergic to flowers, you’ll definitely want to take a look at the list below. With important life events and upcoming holidays, like Mother’s Day, it’s important to know which varieties you can send to someone who is allergic to flowers. Take a look at these hypoallergenic flowers I’ve rounded up below!

1. Carnations

You don’t have to worry about itchy eyes and a runny nose with carnations. These ruffled, ball-shaped blooms can easily add texture to any arrangement. We have both standard and spray varieties to choose from in an array of colors. My favorite is our dusty pink carnations (pictured above), which pairs beautifully with burgundy flowers.

2. Daffodils

Daffodils are a spring flower staple! These bright blooms may not be pollen-free but they’re considered hypoallergenic flowers. Though daffodils produce less pollen than most, they are generally pollinated by insects rather than the wind. However, we don’t recommend handling the daffodils if you suffer from allergies. Our daffodils are offered in both standard and mini varieties.

3. Hyacinth

This spring flower has low levels of pollen but its fragrance has been known to cause some irritation, so keep that in mind. Hyacinth is a seasonal product available from May through December and its vase life is eight days with proper care. They look stunning on their own but also pair beautifully with other spring flowers like tulips!

4. Hydrangeas

If you’re looking for flowers that will add fullness, elegance and that are also pollen-free then hydrangeas are the flowers for you! These large blooms come in a wide range of colors such as ivory, yellow, pink, blue and more. They’re also available year-round!

5. Orchids

You don’t have to worry about orchids if you’re allergic to flowers. Although they are not pollen-free (they have sticky pollen), it’s very unlikely for the pollen to become airborne. Orchids are typically seen in tropical arrangements, however, they’re available year-round. They’re surprisingly a lot hardy than you think and easy to care for. I especially love our pink cymbidium orchids!

6. Peonies

Who doesn’t love peonies?! If you are allergic to flowers, you don’t have to stay away from these oh-so-popular flowers! These fragrant blooms come in beautiful colors like blush, cream, white, pinks, and reds. Peonies are in season in April and through the months of May and June. (Thanks to our awesome partner farms, we’re able to offer peonies when they’re not in season. Check out the , which are organized by month!)

7. Roses

Speaking of popular, roses are another great option for those who are on the hunt for hypoallergenic flowers. These low-pollen flowers are long-lasting and come in a ton of colors. With a vase life of 5-8 days, you don’t have to worry about them lasting for your event. Roses are so universal and can be used in any season.

8. Snapdragons

Snapdragons are a great line flower that can add height and texture to arrangements. And yes, these are a low allergen flower. These are often used to create the structural framework of an arrangement and they are usually the focal point. Snapdragons have a vase life of 5 days if cared for properly. One of our most popular varieties is our Orange Sorbert Snapdragons.

9. Tulips

Tulips are another allergy-free option for those on the hunt for hypoallergenic flowers! Even though the spring season offers a larger selection, most tulips are available year-round. Standard tulips come in a wide range of colors and varieties too. Some of the other varieties include double tulips, French tulips, fringed tulips and parrot tulips. For a colorful mixture, take a look at our farm mixed tulips.

10. Irises

Just like tulips, irises are also suitable for allergy sufferers and they’re also springtime flower (we have this flower year-round). We offer irises in blue, light blue, white, yellow and bicolor white and yellow. With a vase life of 6 days, you’ll be able to enjoy them without reaching for the tissue!

If possible, we recommend doing a test run to make sure everything goes well. Especially, if this is for an important event such as a wedding.

The warm summer months bring the anticipation for blooms both inside and out. But for some, the season brings more dread than joy. Trees, grasses and plants bloom and pollen fills the air — which means pollen allergies. If you are an allergy sufferer, take heart, there are many options for your home and yard that won’t require an asthma inhaler or a pocket full of tissues.

Flowers & Plants

Say no to: The asteraceae family, which includes: artemesia, asters, dahlias, daisies, Gerber daisies, chamomile, chrysanthemums, utica and some breeds of sunflowers.

Baby’s breath is added to many floral bouquets and arrangements. In its single-flower state, it can be an allergen. Opt for baby’s breath with double flowers. This hybrid variety has reduced pollen.

In fact, few flowers are problematic for allergy suffers, but if you’re highly sensitive, seek out hybrids classified as “formal doubles.” These have virtually no pollen.

Lilies do produce pollen but it’s easy to remove their stamen with scissors before bringing them into your house. Just wear gloves when doing so because the pollen can stain your hands.

Some sunflowers are good choices for allergy suffers. These breeds including apricot twist, infrared mix, joker and pro-cut bicolor.

Many plants that are mainly grown for their foliage such as hosta, dusty miller and cactus are all great choices. Many spring bulbs are also very low in pollen, including crocus, daffodils, hyacinth and tulips.

Plants with larger flowers tend to produce less pollen. This is because their pollen is heavier and requires insects, bees, and birds to move the pollen from plant to plant versus relying on the wind. Plants with small, inconspicuous flowers tend to be the worst offenders.


The good news: only about 100 of more than 50,000 tree species cause allergies.

The bad news: those 100 are a challenge to avoid.

Many trees are monoecious, meaning they have separate male and female flowers. For the pollen to get from the male flower to the female flower, it has to travel, usually via wind. This is what makes these heavy pollinators an allergy culprit.

Dioecious tree species bear male and female flowers on separate plants. Dioecious trees include ash, boxelder, cedar, cottonwood, juniper, mulberry and yew. If you select or happen to have a male plant you may have problems.

If you are allergic to oak, you are likely to be allergic to beech, birch and alder too, which are in the same family.


Problem grasses include: Bermuda, fescue, Johnson, June, Kentucky bluegrass, orchard, perennial rye, redtop, salt grass, sweet vernal and Timothy.

Late spring and summer is when grass allergy season kicks in. There are more than 1,000 species of grass in North America, but only a handful cause serious allergic reactions in humans. Grass allergy sufferers must take extra care when doing yard work — especially mowing the lawn.

Ground-cover alternatives: Plant St. Augustine if you want grass in your yard but can’t handle other varieties. If you are allergic to grass, consider replacing it with a ground cover like vinca, geranium, dichondra or Irish moss that doesn’t produce much pollen. Wear a face mask if you do have to mow or ask someone else to do the job. You might consider replacing your lawn with artificial turf altogether.

Steps to Minimize Your Allergic Reactions

Think you might have a pollen allergy?

First, pay a visit to your allergist for a skin or blood test. This will determine the triggers of your reaction.

Pollen counts are highest in the morning, so avoid being outdoors during this height. Weather stations and apps are a good source of up-to-date pollen count information.

Plan your home landscape with varieties that don’t cause allergies. Nurseries often have hybrids and cultivars available. FTD has many flowers that cater to those with a pollen allergy.

Florist advice: Why allergies shouldn’t stop people from buying flowers

Many people suffer from allergic reactions to a wide variety of items they come into contact with. From the humble peanut to the usually harmless tulip, reactions can range from the mild to the severe and being in the business of flowers means you’ll inevitably comes across a customer or two with allergies to your products. Don’t despair, Hana Florist POS is always ready to dispense with useful florist advice and we’re here to tell you that all isn’t lost when it comes to allergies.

While many allergy sufferers tend to avoid flowers altogether, there’s no need to see them pass by your shop without ever entering due to fear of contracting a nasty reaction to your stems and petals. In fact, florists who educate themselves about allergies can cultivate a knack for selling their blooms to the more fickle among us and corner a niche in the process.

What causes allergic reactions to flowers?

The main cause behind people reacting badly to a bouquet of beautiful begonias is the pollen that transfers airborne male seeds to fertilize female plants for reproduction. Depending on the type of plant, the size and coarseness of pollen grains will differ and cause allergic reactions of varying intensities in humans. This means that if you choose your arrangements carefully you’ll be able to minimize, or even completely eliminate, allergic reactions to your bouquets.

Here’s are some low-pollen stems that will delight allergy-prone customers:

Pollen-Free Lilies: Horticulturists have been cultivating special breeds of lilies that are 100% pollen-free for quite some time now. This is great news since lilies are a favorite for many, but also have a bad reputation for causing orange stains on clothing, furniture and kicking allergies into overdrive. Fortunately, the technique to making lovely lilies pollen free has been mastered, which means you can order them from your nearest suppliers.

Orchids: The eloquent orchid poses a very low risk to allergies thanks to its sticky pollen sacks that house the male seeds. With orchid pollen being distributed primarily through feeding birds and insects, people don’t have to worry about catching it in the air as is the case with airborne pollen grains. Other popular bird and insect pollinated plants to keep on your list are peonies, hydrangeas and pangies.

Rose: The beautiful rose is true to its reputation for its subtle and unobtrusive beauty. The world’s most romantic flower produces very small amounts of pollen across all the various colors and plant variations. This means little to no allergy-causing pollen around to ruin a beautiful arrangement of roses. If you’d like to further minimize the risk, use tight-budded varieties of roses that release even less pollen into the air.

Carnations: Adult butterflies feed on the nectar that carnations produce. By going from one flower to the next, butterflies inadvertently ensure that the world has an abundant supply of these beautiful plants. Pollen is usually collected on the butterfly’s legs as it maneuvers itself to get to the sweet nectar housed within the carnation’s flowers.

Cactus: They might sting you but they won’t cause you to break out in an uncontrollable sneeze attack. While the perpetual cactus may be a starkly different plant to most others, it also produces flowers for reproduction. However, these desert dwellers rely on insects and birds to distribute their seeds due to the typically low to no wind desert environments they inhabit.

Flowers to avoid

Prime pollen propagators would be almost every plant in the Aster, or Daisy, family. People with high sensitivity to pollen typically have very bad reactions to plants of this species. Another seemingly innocuous plant is the Baby’s Breath which has deceptively small, yet pollen rich flowers that are easily airborne.

Baby’s breath are very popular filler plants and are a big favorite for weddings and other events. If a customer insists on using them for an event, consider the double-flowered hybrids that hold surprisingly smaller amounts of pollen. Other no-go flowers for allergy prone people are sunflowers, goldenrods, chamomile blooms and dahlias.

What about fake flowers?

While many may disagree on the use of fake flowers for any type of arrangement, the synthetic variety can be a good way to include a certain type of flower in a mixed bouquet or wedding arrangement while circumventing the challenges that come with allergies. Our advice is to use them only as substitutes in situations where customer comfort is at risk never overuse them if not necessary.

In-store prevention of allergies

As you can see, making sure your arrangements don’t kick off a series of unpleasant reactions to them when customers leave your store with bouquet in hand is indeed very possible. However, things can get a little tricky in-store where you’ll undoubtedly have a wide variety of flowers, off cuts and pollen-rich material around you.

To prevent people from experiencing a nasty reaction while visiting your shop you could use an air purifier that will at least mitigate the effects of the overwhelming amount of pollen in the store. Who knows, you might even be allergic to certain flower types and find relief in having one in-store.

For more news, insights and developments in the floral industry and how you can give your flower shop the biggest shot at success, check back on our blog regularly.

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Spring is in the air, as most allergy sufferers can tell you. In Orange County, the major cause of seasonal allergy is the pollen released by plants in the surrounding flora. Being aware of the common plants that cause allergy can help in scheduling activities so that the symptoms of allergy are at least less severe. Listed below are some common allergenic trees, shrubs and weeds common to Orange County and the rest of Southern California. In addition to the trees and shrubs listed, many others occur sporadically as ornamentals. TREES AND SHRUBS Type: Acacia Bloom: January-mid-summer Description: More than 20 species of acacia are currently grown locally as ornamentals, where they are commonly planted in yards and as visual screens along highways. Type: Box elder Bloom: March-April Description: This relative of the maple is used as a street and park tree. It has escaped from cultivation in some areas and is becoming established in the wild. Type: Chamise Bloom: May-June Description: One of the most abundant shrubs in the chapparal areas. Type: Alder Bloom: February-March Description: White alder is scattered throughout the stream valleys and on some mountain slopes. It is also used as a park tree. Type: Sagebrush Bloom: August-December Description: Many species of sagebrush occur in the wild and some are used as ornamentals in drier zones. Type: Scale Bloom: June-September Description: Many different species of scale (wingscale, shadscale, lenscale, allscale, spine scale) occur throughout Southern California. Lenscale is often planted as a hedge along the coast because of its resistance to salt water. Type: Eucalyptus Bloom: All year Description: More than 150 species of eucalyptus have been introduced in Southern California from Australia. Probably the most widely distributed (because it has escaped into the wild) is the towering blue gum eucalyptus. Type: Walnut Bloom: April-May Description: Probably the worst offender among the walnuts is the native California black walnut, which occurs on brushy hillsides throughout Southern California. English walnut and black walnut are occasionally planted. Type: Juniper Bloom: January-March Description: California juniper covers thousands of acres on the dry inner slopes of the mountain ranges and along the desert margins. Many other species are planted as ornamentals around homes, parking lots and other areas. Type: Mulberry Bloom: February-March Description: A popular ornamental tree and a major cause of urban and suburban allergies. Type: Olive Bloom: March-May Description: Widely planted as a dry land ornamental, olive trees are a primary cause of allergy. Type: Poplar/Cottonwood Bloom: February-April Description: Most areas of Southern California have one or more species of this group, and some are planted as ornamentals. Type: Oak Bloom: March-May Description: Numerous species of oak are either planted or native to the county. Type: Elm Bloom: February-March Description: Several species of elm have been planted as ornamentals. Some species flower in late summer, September to October. WEEDS Type: Ragweed Bloom: August-September Description: The scourge of hay fever sufferers is represented locally by false, western and slender ragweed. Giant and short ragweed, the common species of the eastern U.S., are not common here but their numbers are reportedly increasing annually. Type: Pigweed/Amaranth Bloom: June-November Description: This group, represented by redroot pigweed and Palmer’s amaranth, occurs most often in vacant lots, roadsides and the margins of cultivated fields. Type: Lamb’s quarters Bloom: June-October Description: Common weed of gardens, vacant land and roadsides. Type: Common plantain Bloom: May-November Description: Common weed in waste places and roadsides, especially in moist soils. Type: Dock/sorrel Bloom: March-June Description: Common weeds on vacant land and along roadsides. Yellow dock is usually the most common of the group. Type: Russian thistle Bloom: May-November Description: Found along the margins of cultivated fields, and on vacant land and roadsides. Often called tumbleweed. Source: Los Angeles chapter, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Allergic to Weeds? You Can Still Go Outside

In his book, Allergy-Free Gardening, author Thomas Ogren uses a Plant Allergy Scale to rate plants from 1 (low) to high (10) for pollen and allergies. The book also provides many useful tips for reducing your exposure to allergens.

Many weeds are among the worst allergenic plants. Take Common Ragweed for example. One Common Ragweed plant can produce up to one billion pollen grains, and they have been tracked over 400 miles away! Other weeds that can cause allergy problems with their pollen include Pigweed, Bermudagrass, Annual Bluegrass, Dallisgrass, Dandelion, Dock, Lambsquarters, Nettle, Plantain, Ryegrass and Sagebrush, plus many others. Bottom line – control weeds in your lawn and garden and you can reduce your exposure to troublesome pollens.

Weeds are usually easiest to control in spring when they are small and actively growing. However, fall can also be a crucial time to control cool-season weeds in mild winter areas, especially in lawns. Hoeing, mulching and cultivating can help reduce weeds, but herbicides that prevent or kill weeds are often an easier, more efficient method of control, especially if weed pollen is a health concern. Mowing can reduce weeds in lawns temporarily, but unfortunately, they’ll regrow. Just one missed mowing can result in abundant pollen, especially with weedy grasses like Bermudagrass or Annual Bluegrass. A herbicide like Season Long Weed Control For Lawns is a more effective and longer-lasting solution.

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Variety of Pollens throughout Allergy Seasons

For many allergy sufferers, pollen can be a vicious word reminiscent of many sneezy, unhealthy days and nights. How can fine powder released from flowering plants affect our senses so greatly?

To explain…pollen is a plant’s only form of reproduction and it’s produced in mass quantities. It’s carried in the air and can land in a person’s eyes, nose, lungs and on skin.

For people with allergies, pollen is an allergen that causes an allergic reaction. Their immune system treats the pollen as an invader and responds by mobilizing to attack by producing large amounts of antibody. This allergic reaction can cause the following symptoms: itchy watery eyes, runny nose, itchy throat, hives, fatigue, and irritability.

When is Pollen Season?

Pollens spread by the wind. Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds are the main cause of allergies. Spring is not the only allergy season, many plants pollinate year round. Your location will determine the time and duration of your pollen season. Pollen counts will vary from day to day as well as hour to hour.

Different Pollens for Each Pollen Season

In springtime, pollen from the trees begins its release between January and April, depending on the climate and location. These trees include elm, pine, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, and cypress to name a few.

Summertime is when grass pollen reigns supreme: pollen from northern grass in colder climates, such as timothy, rye, and blue; and southern grass pollens in the warmer climates, such as Bermuda Grass.

In the fall, typically weed pollen takes control. These weeds include ragweed, nettle, mugwort, fat hen and sorrel.

Track Pollen Levels in Your Area

If you want to know the allergy levels for your location, provides you with the tools to track pollen in your hometown and across the nation.

As spring approaches and flowers and plants start to bloom, pollen fills the air. According to Thomas Ogren, a horticulturist who invented the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS), pollen is the most common allergen that we are exposed to. It’s also something we can control by adjusting our landscapes to reduce plants that cause allergies.

There are three common types of flowering systems that we should be aware of when choosing plants: perfect-flowered plants, monoecious plants, and dioecious plants.

  • Perfect-flowered plants: In perfect-flowered plants, male and female parts are in the same flower. Because the pollination process is relatively contained, these types of plants are often not highly allergenic.
  • Monoecious plants: In monoecious plants, male and female flowers grow on the same plant. Monoecious plants that are wind-pollinated are likely to cause allergies.
  • Dioecious plants: These plants are separate-sexed. Some are male, and some are female. The male trees produce pollen, and are often highly allergenic, while the female plants produce fruit or seeds and are not allergenic.

If you are interested in planting a dioecious plant and are prone to allergies, make sure it’s a female. The main thing to look for when determining the gender of a plant is pollen. If a plant has pollen it is a male (or part male in the case of monoecious and perfect-flowered plants). If a plant has seeds or fruit, it is not necessarily a female, it can also be a mixed gendered plant.

To help you determine what will set off your allergies, we created a visual of the most and least allergenic plants based on the OPALS Allergy Index Scale. The OPALS Allergy Index Scale ranks plants from 1-10. Plants ranked 1 or 2 have very little potential for causing allergies, while plants ranked 9 or 10 are the most allergenic and can often cause hay fever and asthma.

OPALS considers a variety of factors when ranking how allergenic a plant is: the amount of pollen produced, potency of the pollen, how much of the year the plant is in bloom, size of the pollen grains, gravity of the pollen grains, stickiness and dryness of the pollen grains, type of flowering system, effect of sap, and smell of flowers, among other things. The visual below shows the peak pollen times for the most allergenic plants, so you’ll know when these genera or species will be most likely to set off your allergies.

This spring, whether you’re trying to figure out what’s triggering your allergies, looking for a new houseplant, or replanting your garden, this visual will help you choose the right allergy-safe plant!

If you’re worried about bringing pollen into your home, succulents are often a great non-allergenic choice. Though the OPALS rank varies by genus and species, cacti are considered safe with a rank of 1. Orchids, also ranked 1, are a great low-maintenance choice. To learn more about OPALS and landscaping your garden to reduce allergies, check out The Allergy-Fighting Garden


The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Ogren

Image credits:

Alder CC Image courtesy of Luke McGuff on Flickr | Chinese Fan Palm, Impatiens, Pine, Carrot Grass CC Image courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr on Wikimedia Commons | Yew CC Image courtesy of Trish Steel on Wikimedia Commons | Cypress CC Image courtesy of Trish Steel on Wikimedia Commons | Oak CC Image courtesy of Benjamin Bruce on Wikimedia Commons | Juniper CC Image courtesy of Homer Edward Price on Flickr | Ragweed CC Image courtesy of Le.Loup.Gris on Wikimedia Commons | Queen Anne’s Lace, Sweet Vernal Grass CC Image courtesy of Harry Rose on Flickr | Orchard Grass CC Image courtesy of Dean Morley on Flickr | Wood Sage CC Image courtesy of Wendy Cutler on Flickr | African Lily CC Image courtesy of Raniel Diaz on Flickr | Starfruit CC Image courtesy of Wendy Cutler on Flickr | Pomegranate CC Image courtesy of endless autumn on Flickr | Apricot CC Image courtesy of Jossian on Wikimedia Commons | Balsam Fir CC Image courtesy of Cephas on Wikimedia Commons | Sapote CC Image courtesy of on Wikimedia Commons

Pollen Allergy

What Is a Pollen Allergy?

Pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies. Many people know pollen allergy as “hay fever.” Experts usually refer to pollen allergy as “seasonal allergic rhinitis.”

Each spring, summer and fall, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. Most of the pollens that cause allergic reactions come from trees, weeds and grasses. These plants make small, light and dry pollen grains that travel by the wind.

Grasses are the most common cause of allergy. Ragweed is a main cause of weed allergies. Other common sources of weed pollen include sagebrush, pigweed, lamb’s quarters and tumbleweed. Certain species of trees, including birch, cedar and oak, also produce highly allergenic pollen.

Plants fertilized by insects, like roses and some flowering trees, like cherry and pear trees, usually do not cause allergic rhinitis.

What Is a Pollen Count?

A pollen count is how much pollen is in the air. This is often reported during pollen season on local weather forecasts. Sometimes the main types of pollen are also reported.

What Are the Symptoms of Pollen Allergy?

People with pollen allergies only have symptoms when the pollens they are allergic to are in the air. Symptoms include:

• Runny nose and mucus production

• Sneezing

• Itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth

• Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)

• Red and watery eyes

• Swelling around the eyes

How Do Doctors Diagnose Pollen Allergy?

Doctors use two tests to diagnose a pollen allergy.

Skin Prick Test (SPT)
In prick/scratch testing, a nurse or doctor places a small drop of the possible allergen on your skin. Then the nurse will lightly prick or scratch the spot with a needle through the drop. If you are allergic to the substance, you will develop redness, swelling and itching at the test site within 20 minutes. You may also see a wheal. A wheal is a raised, round area that looks like a hive. Usually, the larger the wheal, the more likely you are to be allergic to the allergen.

A positive SPT to a particular pollen allergen does not necessarily mean that a person has an allergy. Health care providers must compare the skin test results with the time and place of a person’s symptoms to see if they match.

Specific IgE Blood Test
Blood tests are helpful when people have a skin condition or are taking medicines that interfere with skin testing. They may also be used in children who may not tolerate skin testing. Your doctor will take a blood sample and send it to a laboratory. The lab adds the allergen to your blood sample. Then they measure the amount of antibodies your blood produces to attack the allergens. This test is called Specific IgE (sIgE) Blood Testing. (This was previously and commonly referred to as RAST or ImmunoCAP testing.) As with skin testing, a positive blood test to an allergen does not necessarily mean that an allergen caused your symptoms.

How Can I Prevent an Allergic Reaction to Pollen?

There are actions you can take to reduce allergic reactions to pollen:

  • Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. This will lessen the amount of pollen allergen you inhale and reduce your symptoms.
  • Keep windows closed during pollen season and use central air conditioning with a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filter attachment. This applies to your home and to any vehicle (car, bus, train, etc.).
  • Start taking allergy medicine before pollen season begins. Most allergy medicines work best when taken this way. This allows the medicine to prevent your body from releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause your symptoms.
  • Bathe and shampoo your hair daily before going to bed. This will remove pollen from your hair and skin and keep it off your bedding.
  • Wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat. This will help keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair.
  • Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • Change and wash clothes worn during outdoor activities.
  • Dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.

Look for this mark to find products proven more suitable for people with asthma and allergies.
Find CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® products on our Certification program website or download our app on the App Store or Google Play.

What Is the Treatment for Pollen Allergy?

Certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines may help reduce pollen allergy symptoms.

  • Antihistamines come in pill, liquid or nasal spray form. They can relieve sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes. They also reduce a runny nose and, to a lesser extent, nasal stuffiness.
  • Decongestants are available as pills, liquids, nasal sprays or drops. They help shrink the lining of the nasal passages and relieve nasal stuffiness. Use decongestant nose drops and sprays only on the short-term.
  • Nasal corticosteroids are a type of nasal spray. They reduce inflammation in the nose and block allergic reactions. They are the most effective medicine type for allergic rhinitis because they can reduce all symptoms, including nasal congestion. Nasal corticosteroids have few side effects.
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists block the action of important chemical messengers (other than histamine) that are involved in allergic reactions.
  • Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that blocks the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms, including histamine and leukotrienes. This medicine has few side effects, but you must take it four times a day.

Many people with pollen allergy do not get complete relief from medications. This means they may be candidates for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment that can help prevent or reduce the severity of allergic reactions. It can change the course of allergic disease by modifying the body’s immune response to allergens.

Allergy Shots – Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT) has been around for more than 100 years and can provide long-lasting symptom relief. SCIT is a series of shots that have progressively larger amounts of allergen. An injection of the allergen goes into the fat under the skin. Over time, allergic symptoms generally improve. Many patients experience complete relief within one to three years of starting SCIT. Many people experience benefits for at least several years after the shots stop.

Sublingual Immunotherapy involves placing a tablet containing the allergen under the tongue for 1 to 2 minutes and then swallowing it. In 2014, the FDA approved three types of under-the-tongue tablets to treat grass and ragweed allergies. More are in development. You take SLIT tablets daily before and during grass or ragweed season. This treatment offers people with these allergies a potential alternative to allergy shots.

Discuss your allergy symptoms and your allergy treatment plan with your health care provider.

Medical Review October 2015.

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