Staff File Photo by Angela Lewis Giant ragweed will be in bloom in the Chattanooga area within a couple of weeks.
Bless you, Chattanooga. If you’re not sneezing now, just wait a few weeks.
The pollen count is rising with the raging ragweed that plagues Southern noses.
Ragweed is measured on a scale from one to 50, with anything over 50 considered “extremely heavy.” Earlier this week, air pollution technicians rated Chattanooga’s air a 154 on the pollen scale, more than three times the rating needed to pose a problem, said Amber McCorvie, spokeswoman for the Air Pollution Control Bureau.
For the unlucky people who are allergic to ragweed, this is the time of year when watery eyes and wrinkled-up tissues yield a three-word phrase: “It’s my allergies.”
* Medicine: Zyrtec
* Eyedrops: Zaditor
* Nasal spray: McNeil Sinus Rinse
*Tissues: Plain, not anti-bacterial
Source: Dr. Marc Cromie
Dr. Marc Cromie, an allergy specialist with Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, said the sneaky plant disguises itself among goldenrod near construction sites and roadsides. This “lacy-type, greenish plant” has no vibrant colors, and its spores become airborne for pollination.
“If you’re allergic, when you breathe it in, it presents a cascade of allergic reactions,” Cromie said. “Your immune system is overreacting to a harmless substance.”
Frost offers real relief
Cromie said the autumn pollen season lasts from August to the first frost, which may be a while for Chattanooga residents.
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., said this fall is expected to be hotter than average with temperatures reaching 80 degrees throughout October.
But if you find yourself sneezing and red-eyed, there are a few over-the-counter treatments that could help, Cromie said.
Take an antihistamine and saline-based nasal spray, he said. If over-the-counter medicines do not help, or if you have asthma or a sinus infection, you should go straight to your doctor, he said.
Home remedies such as eating local honey will not help because the pollen used to make honey is not the same type of pollen that makes you sick, Cromie said.
Another option is to see a specialist to get shots that actually cure allergies rather than just treating the symptoms. These all-natural shots are done with a small needle that goes directly under the skin, rather than in the muscle, causing it to hurt less, Cromie said.
Don’t forget the pets
Humans aren’t the only ones suffering. If you’ve noticed your pet scratching its eyes or gnawing on its feet lately, ragweed could be to blame, said Dr. Karen Knarr, a veterinarian with the East Ridge Animal Hospital.
There are a few home remedies for pet allergies such as antihistamines and fatty acids, though owners should consult a veterinarian before giving any medicine to a pet, Knarr said.
Contact Jessie Gable at email@example.com or 423-757-6345.