The record spring rains and the damp summer season occurring throughout the Midwest this year have resulted in conditions that are wreaking havoc on the eyes and the sinuses of allergy sufferers. This is due to the proliferation of weed pollen, particularly ragweed.

“Ragweed season could potentially be more severe this year because of the amount of rain we’ve experienced throughout the Midwest, unless August and September are much drier,” says Bela B. Faltay, MD, Chief of Service, Allergy, Akron General Health System. “Molds are also going to be higher, causing more distress to allergic individuals. Symptoms may even be noticed prior to August 15 this year.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions comes from plants that don’t have showy flowers, such as trees, weeds and grasses. These plants make small, light and dry pollen grains that are carried by wind. Airborne pollen can drift for many miles. Amazingly, scientists have collected samples of ragweed pollen 400 miles out at sea and two miles high in the air. In addition, most allergy-causing pollen comes from plants that produce it in huge quantities. For example, a single ragweed plant can generate a million grains of pollen every day.

Among North American plants, weeds produce the largest amounts of allergenic pollen. Ragweed is the major culprit, but other important sources of weed pollen come from sagebrush, redroot pigweed, lamb’s quarters, Russian thistle (tumbleweed) and English plantain.

Ragweed season, otherwise known as hay fever season, commonly starts in the middle of August.