Bad allergies? Ragweed pollen is double the normal level

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If your allergies are bothering you more than normal, you're not alone. And we may know what's to's ragweed!

Pollen levels are extremely high right now - at least twice what we normally see.

Twelve-year-old Dewayne Butler is dealing with the worst of it.

"Every time I sneeze, snot comes out of my nose," Butler told us as he sat on one of the playground benches in Skinner Park.

He and his grandma Johnnie know allergy season is getting bad.

"It's hard for him to go outside sometimes because they itch," Johnnie said.

With ragweed pollen levels nearly twice as high as usual, allergists say it's no surprise.

"We're seeing a lot more of the pollens, the pollination seasons are lasting longer, they're starting earlier and they're more intense," said Dr. Christopher Codispoti, an allergist and immunologist at Rush University Medical Center.

Just reading about allergies can start to make your eyes water and throat get scratchy, but the reason ragweed is so prevalent now is it can grow almost anywhere. It's what Dr. Codispoti called a "pioneer plant," the first one that starts to grow through cracks or any disturbed top soil. And that's why it can be such a problem in the city and suburbs where there's so much construction going on.

Plus, the pollen season now extends from mid-July to the first freeze! The best advice from the professionals is to stay inside when the pollen count is high, use nasal spray or antihistamines, and when you come back in from any time outside, take a shower!

"Don't lie on your upholstered furniture or your couch or your bedding because when you go back to bed that night, you are going to be inhaling everything you contaminated your bedding with," Dr. Codispoti said.

And to clear up a common misconception, ragweed is different than goldenrod.

Goldenrod has bright yellow flowers. It does not cause allergies, and is good food for bees and butterflies.

Ragweed has flowers that are a lot smaller and its leaves are bigger.
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