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Learn about one of the possible culprits of all that fall sneezing

Sept. 9, 2017—You're sniffling and sneezing. Your eyes are irritated, your throat is itchy and you have a runny nose. You may be thinking the culprit is a cold. But your misery may have another source: ragweed pollen.

All 17 species of ragweed plants spew out powdery pollen at this time of year. That pollen is one of the most common causes of fall allergies.

But before you reach for more tissue, you might want to get in touch with your doctor. Assuming you do have a ragweed allergy—and your doctor can help confirm that—he or she can suggest ways to tame your symptoms.

Sneeze less, enjoy more

A key way to feel like yourself again if you are allergic to ragweed is to avoid its pollen as much as possible. That isn't always easy though, since a single ragweed plant can release 1 million grains of pollen into the air in just one day. Even so, some simple steps can help curb your symptoms:

  • Try to avoid going outside in the morning, especially on windy days. Ragweed pollen levels are highest in the morning. Windy days can also stir up pollen and make your symptoms worse.
  • Shut your windows—both at home and in your car. That way pollen won't blow in.
  • Don't track pollen into your home. Leave your shoes at the front door. Change your clothes and shower off if you've been outside for a long stretch of time.
  • Wash your hands after petting an animal that's been outside. Fluffy's and Fido's fur is a pollen trap.
  • Cover up. Wear an allergy mask to filter out pollen when mowing the yard or doing other outdoor chores.
  • Keep tabs on pollen counts. Weather reports often include them. Limit your time outdoors when counts are high.
  • Ask your doctor about taking antihistamines and other allergy medicines that might ease your symptoms. If you do take them, stick with them until about two weeks after ragweed pollen disappears, advises the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

For long-term relief from severe symptoms, you might also ask your doctor about allergy shots. Learn more about the differences between a cold and an allergy.

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