Allergy season made worse by drought - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Allergy season made worse by drought

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Many Iowans have found the symptoms of allergy season are bad this year.

Ragweed, a plant native to Iowa, is the main cause of what people commonly call hay fever. Due to the drought, the pollen count is especially concentrated.

Rain helps wash away a weed's pollen, according to Bob Hartzler, weed specialist with the Iowa State University extension office and ISU professor of agronomy. With a drought this summer, he said, wave after wave of pollen has entered the air -- and people's sinuses.

"The fall of the year tends to be very problematic for allergy sufferers, especially those that are pollen allergic," allergy and asthma doctor Brad McClimon said Tuesday afternoon at Medical Associates in Dubuque. "The weeds, such as ragweed, tend to pollinate in the fall of the year, from about mid-August until the first frost, so we're right in the midst of the pollen season."

Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod -- a tall weed with yellow flowers seen widely in roadside ditches -- does not cause allergies, Hartzler said. The pollen is a little too heavy to be airborne. However, it does pollinate at the same time as ragweed, so it's at least a good indicator species that allergy season is here.

At Medical Associates in Dubuque Tuesday afternoon, Eric Bell received one of two allergy shots he gets every week. Before Bell starting taking these shots, he said, his life was unbearable at times.

"I'm bed sick for a week. I just can't even function," Bell said. "I get clogged up, runny nose. Watery eyes. I pretty much shut down for a week in the spring and the fall."

"Many of the antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra over the last few years have gone over the counter, and that may be enough for many people," McClimon said. "If they are taking those medications and still not seeing the relief they would like, then they probably need to see their physician."

He said many people suffering from allergies won't see major relief until the first frost, maybe four to six weeks from now.

Leading up to the first frost, Hartzler said, the pollen count will slowly decrease.

Working in landscaping is a tough job for a person who has allergies. Jake Hedley does landscaping work for the city of Dubuque and said he fortunately doesn't suffer from allergies but knows co-workers who do.

"We're outside everyday and, I mean, we're in the weeds and we're in the brush," Hedley said. "There's no avoiding it. We're out in it whether we like it or not, so you just got to hope that you have the right medication to help you handle it."

McClimon recommends people suffering from allergies shut the windows in their homes and turn on the air conditioning - or at least avoid sleeping next to an open window. He also said people might want to shower immediately after being outdoors for a long time.

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