For those of you who have started sneezing or felt congested lately, you are not alone.

The fall weed pollen season has begun in our area, and the main culprit is ragweed.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau takes pollen counts five days a week.

Currently, the weed pollen count is low. Very high ragweed numbers are around 150 to 160, and those counts will be coming soon.

"We start seeing ragweed in August, and it'll last until the first frost. But, typically, September, you're going to start seeing it peak," Marc Cromie, M.D., Board Certified Allergist & President of Chattanooga Allergy Clinic said of the pollen timing. 

Giant ragweed is the biggest allergen of the fall season.

"The ragweed plant can produce a billion pollen granules each year, so that is our biggest producer of pollen in the fall is ragweed, and that's what's going to be making people sneeze and wheeze," stated Dr. Cromie.

Fall pollen counts will not be as high as the spring counts in the thousands.

However, the fall allergy season occurs like a perfect storm as kids head back to school and people are often off of allergy medications during the summer months.

"In the fall, ragweed can be just as bad. It'll cause the sneezing and congestion, but also it can bring around a lot of asthma issues because fall is a big time for asthma exacerbations," explained Dr. Cromie.

The big influx of ragweed pollen depends on rain and mild temperatures.

Once it cools off some, ragweed pollen should increase, but you can take steps now before the fall allergy season worsens.

"Go ahead and start your daily antihistamines, like Allegra or Zyrtec, and a nasal spray, over the counter, like Flonase, Nasocort, Rhinocort. Those are going to be the best things to get rolling to prevent the fall exacerbations," Dr. Cromie advised.

He also recommends a saline rinse to clean out your sinuses, and don't open your windows at night once the cooler fall air arrives.

"If you have pets or you know kids that are out playing, have everybody take a shower, bathe at night. Don't sleep in your ragweed which is what we always tell our patients," instructed Dr. Cromie.

If you go through the same cycle every spring and fall with chronic sinus infections and ear infections, it's probably your allergies.

"The main thing about allergies is avoidance. Now, we can't live in a bubble, but we can avoid our immune system overreacting to these pollens. And, what that is related to is allergy shots or immunotherapy," Dr. Cromie said.

Allergy shots are the closest thing to a cure to allergies. They change your immune system over time, so your body no longer overreacts to the allergen.
Whether you receive shots or take other allergy medications, good luck over the coming weeks as the ragweed pollen counts will be on the rise.

The ragweed pollen season will last until late October or early November.