When Is Ragweed Season? Fall Allergy Symptoms Explained

September is coming to a close, ushering in the autumn season while ragweed pollen swirls in the air.

Ragweed is a plant that only lives for one season, but in that time it can prove a nuisance for people who are allergic to it.

A single plant can release a billion grains of pollen, which are light enough to float through the air and come into contact with people.

It grows throughout the United States, particularly in Eastern and Midwestern states. Ragweed can start pollinating as early as July in some states, but for most of the country, ragweed season starts in August and peaks in mid-September, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). In some cases, it can last until November.

The plant is found in 49 of the 50 U.S. states, including Hawaii. The only state in the country where the plant does not grow is Alaska, the AAFA adds. Because it's so light, the pollen can travel hundreds of miles. It has even been found 400 miles away from the coast in the ocean.

Allergy to ragweed pollen is a major cause of seasonal allergies.

What Are the Symptoms?

A ragweed allergy may cause symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, itchy or puffy eyes, an itchy nose or throat, and mucus in the throat.

However, some people may experience more severe symptoms. Ragweed might trigger asthma symptoms, lead to chronic sinusitis, headaches and congestion that can cause trouble sleeping, the AAFA notes.

These allergic reactions flare up because some peoples' immune systems treat the ragweed pollen as a foreign invader, leading to a chemical reaction that causes the symptoms.

What Are the Treatments?

There is no cure for a ragweed allergy, but there are some therapies that may provide relief. Nasal corticosteroids, for example, are nasal sprays that can reduce symptoms and treat inflammation. Antihistamines, meanwhile, work by reducing symptoms such as a runny nose and sneezing.

Some people can benefit from immunotherapy, which may take the form of allergy shots. These help reduce allergy symptoms by gradually exposing the body to the allergen so it can develop a tolerance, WebMD states. More information on treatments can be found on the AAFA website.

Treatments aside, people can also try to manage their symptoms by avoiding the pollen as best they can. Some methods include tracking the pollen count in their area, for example by looking at the National Allergy Bureau map. Central air conditioning can be fitted with allergy air filters.

People can take steps to prevent pollen from being tracked into their home, such as by taking shoes off outside, changing clothes before bed, and covering hair when outside or washing it at night.

A stock photo depicts a woman sneezing due to ragweed. The plant grows widely across the U.S. galitskaya/Getty