As reported by CBC News, hay fever season arrives like clockwork four times per year. In the fall season, the main culprit causing hay fever symptoms is a plant called ragweed. This plant loves to make pollen and release it into the air.
Then the airborne pollen, which is packed full of allergy-causing proteins, can reach you pretty much anywhere you go.
Even worse, ragweed particularly likes to grow in what biologists call “distressed” soil, which is mostly found in cities. So if you live in a city environment and you are allergic to ragweed, you might feel like you are doomed.
However, there are many actions you can take to reduce your risk of breathing in ragweed pollen this fall. Read on to learn what to do now!
What You Are Up Against
According to Web MD, there are at least 17 different species of ragweed that grow in North America.
Each single plant can release up to 1 billion pollen spores during the fall bloom season. All that from just one plant!
As well, the fall bloom season itself is increasing due to rising temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide in the air. This means that each plant is now blooming more vigorously than ever before and for longer than ever before.
So now, instead of two months of allergic misery, you have three months (August through October).
Finally, ragweed pollen spores are unusually tiny and lightweight, meaning they can travel with even the merest breeze. And they have no problem traveling over large bodies of water like oceans and very high up into the atmosphere (here, think 400 miles across the sea and 2 miles up into the atmosphere).
So this is the opponent you are up against. But even with such daunting odds, you can do a lot to keep ragweed spores from reaching you.
Steps to Minimize Exposure to Ragweed
Did you know that the Weather Channel website publishes a daily pollen count for different areas? For example, in the Toronto area, you can visit the Weather website daily to see pollen counts for tree, grass, and ragweed pollens.
The website also offers a “breathing comfort” meter to warn you if the day ahead is forecasted as difficult for allergy and asthma sufferers. This can be a great tool for getting the jump on ragweed pollen!
From there, these are the steps to take to minimize your actual risk of inhaling or ingesting ragweed pollen spores:
1. Stay indoors on high ragweed pollen days
This is a good strategy for any day that delivers high ragweed pollen projections.
Here, the most critical hours are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., since these are the hours most likely to deliver the warm, humid growing conditions ragweed plants like best.
2. Change or clean your home, workplace, and auto air filters monthly
While fall is generally a time when you can let your guard down just a bit in terms of changing your air filters, for ragweed sufferers, this is the time to really ramp up your efforts.
If you have reusable air filters, clean them as often as weekly. For disposable filters, monthly is the longest you should wait between changes.
3. Leave your shoes and coat at the door and take a shower right away
Even as you walk from your car to your home, expect to pick up some ragweed pollen along the way. But when you come home at night, strive to bring as little of it as possible inside with you.
You can reduce the threat of inhaling indoors ragweed pollen by taking your shoes and coat off and leaving them by the door. Then you can head right to the shower to wash your skin and hair and remove any additional clinging pollen.
4. Always dry your clothes in the dryer and clean your dryer vents regularly
When you dry your clothes in the dryer instead of hanging them on the line outdoors, your dryer vents will suck up any clinging ragweed pollen during the dry cycle.
However, the good work of your dryer will depend on how often you clean out your dryer vents… and not just the front lint trap. Here, we are talking about the inaccessible interior vents that require professional dryer vent cleaning.
As a side bonus, fall is a great time to have your dryer vents professionally cleaned, since clogged dryer vents is one of the chief culprits of fall and winter home fires!
5. Clean out your indoor air ducts
Any ragweed pollen you don’t catch when you come indoors will eventually make its way up into your duct system, where it can get blown out into the rooms of your home repeatedly.
Cleaning out your indoor air ducts not only removes the most recent crop of ragweed pollen, but it also removes any ragweed pollen that has ever gotten trapped inside your vents, ever.
A professional indoor air duct cleaning is a one-day job that leaves your indoor air fresh and pure.
6. Install HEPA filters
Installing HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters is like bringing a cannon to a gunfight—you are guaranteed to win.
You can install portable (room) HEPA filters, use a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner, upgrade to a HEPA-rated HVAC system, or install a whole home HEPA system that works with your existing HVAC combo.
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