Normally I don’t wake up at 8 in the morning (since I don’t get off of work until 11:30 or midnight), but they’re putting sewer pipes in my neighborhood so the jackhammer got me right up. Instead of staying at home, getting a headache, I put my kayak on the Kishwaukee River at Atwood Park. Let me tell ya, you can tell we’re in need of rain. The water level is quite low! I took this photo on my journey. In 2 hours, I saw no one (unless you count the turtles, fish, birds, and the snake that scared the @*#& out of me).
The only thing that brought this day down was the fact that I sneezed about five times. (Maybe that’s why there weren’t too many birds on the river now that I think about it.)
While I didn’t see any ragweed, I know it’s that time of year. I’ve been a ragweed sufferer since I was a kid with the itchy eyes and sneezes. For years, I’ve cursed at the ragweed growing along fenceposts and ditches around here. Their long stalks and bright yellow flowers. It wasn’t until I got to work today and read more about how ragweed affects me that I realized I’ve been cursing at the wrong plant! For years, I’ve mistaken “Canadian Goldenrod” for ragweed. And when you look at them, they’re very similar. This is goldenrod (to the left). The biggest difference is the leaves. Goldenrod has long, slender leaves. Ragweed has jagged leaves (not too unlike an oak tree leaf). No need to worry about goldenrod as it doesn’t even produce pollen in the air. Instead, it’s pollinated by insects. Ragweed, on the other hand, looks like a jagged ball under the microscpoe…and is definitely airborne!
Ragweed grows better when it’s wet out. (Definitely the case earlier this summer). However during dry stretches of weather, (like now) the pollen is carried freely in the air for up to five miles! But when it rains, the pollen falls out of the air so we sufferers can breathe a little easier. Unfortunately, ragweed will continue to bloom well into the late summer, early autumn timeframe. The first frost usually kills the blooms off…ending our sniffling and sneezing. But here in Northern Illinois, that isn’t expected until the latter week of September or the first week of October.
So why am I allergic to ragweed and Meteorologist Joe Astolfi is not? 1 in 7 people’s bodies “overdo” the immune response to inhaling ragweed. Too many antibodies are released which create histamine. This causes the runny nose, swollen, watery, and itchy eyes, coughing, mucus, sneezing, rashes, and occasionally asthma. Luckily, most of us can take care of this with an over-the-counter medicine. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may have to run a HEPA Filter or the air conditioning.
A side effect to global climate change could be more ragweed! Increased Carbon Dioxide in the air increases the pollen production from ragweed.
Keep watching 13News as our partnership with the Winnebago County Health Department continues. They count the pollen in the air every day. You can get the updated numbers on 13News at Noon and 5.
sources: Minnesota Department of Agriculture Extension Office, Airgle.
Posted under 13 Climate Authority, climate/climate change, health, safety, statistics, weather geek