Health Watch -- Ragweed Season

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

If you’re sniffling, sneezing and have itchy eyes, you may also have noticed that ragweed levels are high in your local pollen count.

Ragweed is one of the most common causes of hayfever and misery for many allergy sufferers. But how much do you know about this plant? Ragweed’s scientific name is Ambrosia, but if you’re allergic to it, it’s no delicious food of the gods for you. Ragweed grows best in hot, dry climates, and it’s most common in the central United States. There are two main species of ragweed, a “short” kind that grows from one to five feet tall and a “giant” variety that can grow up to 15 feet tall.

Allergy experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that what you think you know about ragweed may be wrong. There are many myths and misconceptions associated with this plant.

One myth about ragweed is that its peak pollen dispersal is in the morning. Actually, it’s at midday. There’s also a common belief that most people are allergic to ragweed. According to Dr. David Khan, a UT Southwestern allergist, that’s not true. What is true is that ragweed is the most common pollen allergy. It accounts for more hayfever than all other plants combined. It’s also not true that you need to be near an actual ragweed plant in order to react. Ragweed pollen can be carried by the wind for hundreds of miles. You may be suffering from ragweed that grows in the next state.

Finally, it’s no longer true that all the medicines you can take to fight the effects of ragweed will make you sleepy. There are several new medicines available that fight hayfever without causing drowsiness.