I developed seasonal allergies as an adult. I didn’t even know that could happen, so I had no idea what was going on. I figured it out one day when I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking “What the hell is wrong with me? I’m snotty and sneezing and my eyes itch … Holy crap, I sound like an allergy commercial.” I’ve since heard that this isn’t uncommon for people who move to the southeast. The actual statistic I heard was that 75% of the people who move to Georgia who don’t have allergies will develop them within five years, but I haven’t been able to find any documentation to prove that. If you trust anecdotal evidence, 75% totally accurate.
I’ve learned a lot about allergens since joining the afflicted. Around here, when the pine trees pollinate we enter “the season of things turning yellow.” There is so much pollen in the air, you can watch the air currents. I have lost my car in a parking lot because it was a different color when I came out of the store than it was when I went in. Naturally, I assumed it was the reason I was feeling so miserable. I was amazed to find out that it’s not. The reason pine pollen is so visible is because the granules are so big. Because they are so big, they don’t really get into the nooks and crannies that cause allergies. I do still believe that pine pollen is an irritant, but it’s more like the respiratory irritation you would get from breathing a lot of dust or smoke. The real culprits for allergies are grass pollen and ragweed. Grass, especially, blooms at the same time as the pine trees and the pollen is so teeny-tiny that you don’t see it.
We all know what grass looks like, so no surprise there, but I had no idea what ragweed looks like. For some reason, I thought it looked like goldenrod. The only reason I can think of for this is that people react to ragweed with the same abhorrence that my father reserves for goldenrod. Anyway, not too long ago my neighbor pointed out some ragweed in his yard. I looked at the little plant he was pointing at and said “Wait, you mean that’s ragweed? I have a ton of this shit in my yard!” I am not exaggerating when I say that it was a total “The phone call was coming from inside the house!” moment. I felt so betrayed. Somehow I assumed that there were huge tracts of ragweed miles away that let their pollen blow over my house. To find out that I was harboring these little bastards was a total sucker-punch.
So, as a public service, I am posting some pictures of ragweed so that you can know your enemy and do something about it.
Pine Pollen photo by Beatriz moisset, via Wikimedia Commons, all other photos are public domain.