Fun with Ragweed (Dear God. MY EYES.)

Ragweed is a pretty interesting little bit of vegetation.

1. Each plant can produce one billion grains of pollen.
2. That’s one BILLION.
3. Per plant.
4. Cool mornings and rain wash some of that heavy pollen load out of the air.
5. Guess what it barely does this time of year in the Denver area?
6. Rain.
7. And guess what area saw an unusual dearth of cool mornings this summer?
8. Here.
9. Ragweed’s generic name = Ambrosia (food of the gods)
10. How’s that for irony?
11. It loves hot, dry fields (like in Colorado) and wind (also Colorado).
12. People in the Midwest live with more ragweed than any other place in the world.
13. Humidity over 70% clumps the pollen up so the wind can’t send it traveling.

I know these facts because ragweed and I, we’ve been on pretty intimate terms lately. Real close, like right in my eyes all the time close, so that tears leak out each morning and the irritation at one point reached an apex of serious sunlight aversion and a striking resemblance to a particularly disgusting case of pink-eye.

Closer than I’d like, basically.

My asthma kid’s been crying these involuntary tears of allergy right along with me, too, though not as severely. It’s a first for both of us. I started reacting to the ragweed in Colorado last fall but not like this, and AG has never had an allergy in her life except for dust mites. She’s less than ecstatic with this development, as you might imagine.

Now for the good news and with my immense gratitude: so far, ragweed hurts her eyes but not her airways.

So we can live with this. It’s miserable, but a smallish deal as these things go. And she and I have learned a few things to help for next year.

When August and September roll around again, we need to limit the number of days we wear our contact lenses. While they do shield our eyeballs somewhat during the day, when the ragweed load on the lens reaches critical mass and explodes over the entire eye, that’s bad news. Or maybe the high, dry air out here just makes the pollen feel worse. At any rate, sticking with glasses seems to help.

No eye makeup for me or, when she gets older, AG, until the pollen count sinks. When they are already super-sensitive, my eyelids react badly to even the hypoallergenic stuff I buy.

Finally, I gave in and started turning on the AC when the ragweed’s just too high. It kills me to shut the windows on beautiful days, but our eyes thanked me.

We’ll see what happens next summer. The kid and I may just be in shock, or at least our eyes are. This summer’s unusual lingering heat produced a much worse fall pollen season than the first one we experienced after moving here from high-humidity, low-ragweed Florida.

But maybe not. Lots of my friends and neighbors have been walking around with red eyes, too, so this time next year, you’ll find me hoping for cooler temps and more rain.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Garden Guides

75 responses to “Fun with Ragweed (Dear God. MY EYES.)”

  1. Samantha says:

    Ragweed is killing us in Texas too… my dad and I both have spent the last couple weeks complaining of itching eyes, stuffy head, stuffy nose AND post nasal drip which results in mouth breathing and sore throat… yeah its been MISERABLE, so my sympathies to you both!

  2. MC says:

    Tell me about it. (rolls eyes). I’ve been dreading this season since last fall. I’ve had problems with it before, but it hit the hardest last fall when I was in the mid-west… and without warning. Well, the hardest part struck without warning. 2-3 weeks of sounding like I had a cold (I KNEW it was allergies though), a really really annoying cough that wouldn’t go away and left me gasping for air, and then one day I woke up to my eyes glued shut. I’d never ever had eye allergy stuff before so this was a huge shock to me, and I was most extremely thankful when there were 3 days straight of pouring rain and the air got washed out. Not having itchy watery red eyes every day and being able to breathe and not scare my friends (they thought they’d get sick from me) was reallllllly nice.

    I can tell we’re dealing with it right now on the east cost, but it’s not as bad (please stay that way!) as I had it in the midwest. I’m praying for a very very early frost here, and plenty of rain in the next 3 weeks (up till that 5K race day).

  3. Oh how wretched-I feel so sorry for the both of you.
    If you can find time to do it, wet dust too, and wash any linens/voiles in windows etc that might now have collected the pollen.
    I’ve just googled around and you’ve got classic hay fever symptoms. So I guess you and AG have both identified your specific pollen allergen.
    In the UK ragweed/ragwort is also known as Stinking Willy! Don’t you love that name!

    Oh, and about the contact lenses-I wear daily disposable ones so the pollen build up is diminished. And I have some antihistamine eye drops that are suitable for contact lens wearers. Failing that, washing eyes out with weak saline can help, and a saline nasal spray.

    You could leave the house wearing a scuba diving mask?

    Hope it clears/rains/frosts soon. Feel better-how wretched.

  4. Amy says:

    Samantha–We’re lucky b/c we only have eye symptoms, as bad as those are. Feel better soon! I looked at yesterday–you guys are getting hit pretty hard but our levels are finally going down since it’s getting cooler.

    MC–Lack of rain is definitely our big problem here. Night temps are in the 40′s already, so hopefully an overnight freeze is coming soon.

    Susannah–She and I both wear 1 month disposables, unfortunately. I’ll have to look for antihistamine drops for contacts–thanks for the tip! We have regular antihistamine drops, saline drops, and lens rewetting drops, but I’ve never heard of the kind you mentioned. I’ve been lucky to make it all these years with no allergies, so this is all new to me.

    And Stinking Willy is a FAR better name for this horrible stuff.

  5. Sarah says:

    I feel bad for saying this, but our ragweed season has been unexpectedly mild because it’s rained almost every day this month, so the ragweed hasn’t really had that much of a chance to get going. Because our summer was perfect for the wretched plant, we were bracing for a doozie of a pollen season. And then the entire month of Sept goes by with the ragweed only getting above the detectable limit two or three times.

    I hope you guys get a weather change that will get rid of that ragweed and help you feel better! I hate eye-related pollen allergies.

  6. Amy says:

    Don’t feel bad–I’m happy for you. (And we’re on the mend to our immense relief.)

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