What allergen is it?
August 22, 2014 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I used to live on the East Coast (CT), and now live on the West Coast (WA). Both places, I get allergy symptoms in late August - what could it be?

Having lived on both coasts, one common feature is that I develop allergy symptoms in August / September, lasting two to three weeks. Predicting what's going on would be useful.
How do I find out what specific pollens, etc. are currently in the air? The pollen websites that I have looked at just tell me our area is low for allergens at the moment, but don't point towards specific plants, etc. that may be dispersing pollen.
Allergy tests tell me I am allergic to a whole host of things, but the reality is I only get symptoms twice a year - and I'd like to be able to The timing of second half of August, year after year, does point towards a specific allergy, methinks.
posted by blue_wardrobe to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The reports here break it down by species when possible.

The time you're reporting is prime ragweed season.
posted by Jahaza at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2014

Yeah, my vote goes to ragweed, which is late summer and grows basically everywhere. It's a very common allergy.
posted by Andrhia at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2014

I too was going to vote ragweed. I'm allergic to molds and weeds and my allergist said weeds bloom for fall. I've been wanting to scratch my eyes out for a couple weeks and can't stop sneezing.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2014

I like ragweed as a guess as it is a very common cause of allergic reactions.

Anything that is a wind-blown pollinator could be a cause. You would have to check what plants go to seed in your area in August.

Green Dean notes that a visual clue is "Green flowers, in particular small green flowers, are usually wind-pollinated. They aren’t colorful enough to attract insects for pollination." http://www.eattheweeds.com/ragweed/
posted by notatron at 11:10 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Weeds trigger pollen allergies for many people because their pollen tends to be very small (smaller than trees' pollen, which is generally smaller than flowers' pollen). The larger pollen is, the less likely it is to work its way into your system without you noticing (such as, by you breathing it in through your nose), so the less likely it is to trigger a pollen allergy attack. That means that weeds are more likely to trigger pollen allergies than trees are, which are more likely to trigger pollen allergies than flowers are.

Since the allergy season for weeds is in the fall (Aug - Oct, generally), I would guess that you have a pollen allergy that weeds are triggering. If I had to guess which specific weed, I would guess ragweed, because the plant is incredibly common across North America, ragweeds' pollen is very small (thus very likely to trigger allergy attacks in people who have trouble with pollen), and each ragweed plant produces a massive amount of pollen (which is carried on wind very well because it's so small/light). Ragweed is a very, very common allergy -- from what I've read, something like 70% of people with seasonal allergies have a ragweed allergy.

If you're in North America, you're probably exposed to ragweed pollen during the allergy/pollen season. Even if the overall pollen count isn't high, that doesn't mean that you personally haven't been exposed to ragweed pollen -- if you're having trouble around now, it's definitely the right time of year for it. For what it's worth, I've been feeling absolutely horrible for a week or two since ragweed has started spreading pollen around the mid-Atlantic.

If you have trouble during the spring, then you're probably allergic to tree pollen, and you can get tested to see which specific trees are an issue for you (I think they generally are divided up into small groups of trees for the allergy tests). If you have trouble during mid-summer it might be because of mold, especially leaf mold, as opposed to pollen -- in which case your allergies might have been relieved when you've been in a drier climate like SoCal (versus pretty much anywhere on the East Coast). However, for fall allergies, I don't think (though am not certain) that there are tests to differentiate between which common weed(s) are causing your allergies and which not (there might be tests for that, but in my experience nobody has thought it necessary to be *that* specific in figuring out the specific allergen for fall allergies, aside from knowing it's weed pollen).
posted by rue72 at 11:38 AM on August 22, 2014

« Older Yes, I have heard it's a lovely town   |   Windows Server vs Desktop OS for Running a Server Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.