Knoxville (WVLT) - Are you suffering from a runny nose and sneezing? Do you have itchy, watery eyes?
It's not cold and flu season yet, so what's the reason for your symptoms? Allergy specialists say ragweed is the root cause, and ragweed season is already in full bloom in East Tennessee.
Volunteer TV's Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard has some relief for the 36 million of us that suffer from these seasonal allergies.
Ragweed is so plentiful and predictable in East Tennessee, Doctor Ty Prince and the staff at the Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center can set their clocks, or at least their calendars, to it.
"Ragweed is pretty precise. It will start to bloom in August, sometimes to the day, year by year, and it will absolutely stop with the first frost," Dr. Prince said.
Even though ragweed allergies are triggered by a different type of pollen than spring allergies, the symptoms they produce can be quite similar. The classic runny nose and sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and congestion.
Labor Day is considered by many to be the unofficial kickoff of the ragweed season. It's one of those plants that has tiny, airborne pollen than can be hard to avoid, and it grows in most parts of East Tennessee, but there are some things you can do.
Avoid areas where ragweed plants thrive, such as ditches, roadsides, riverbanks, vacant lots and the edges of wooded areas. Keep windows closed during ragweed season in order to prevent pollen from getting into your home. Use air conditioning, which cools, cleans and dries the air. Keep your car windows closed. Limit the time you spend outdoors, particularly between the hours of 5 and 10 a.m., and after you spend time outside, take a shower to wash pollen from your skin and hair.
Reducing your exposure is important because your body's immune system will be compromised during an allergic response.
"You're immune system fights one thing at a time really well. So while your immune system is inappropriately fighting these allergies, it will be less aggressive to the next invader, the most common being a virus," Dr. Prince said.
And those viruses are about to become plentiful, too. With cold and flu season just weeks away.
Ragweed is the number one late summer and fall weed in the Southeast, and the most common trigger of fall seasonal allergies. One ragweed plant can produce one billion pollen grains that can travel from 300 to 700 miles in the air.