Ragweed and other summer annual weeds are filling the air with pollen, and if you're not already sneezing and sniffling, you soon will be.
Though Tuesday's rain knocked pollen levels down, they will climb again — as early as today they'll be at the high level again, according to Pollen.com.
"Ragweed is up, and mold is up, too," said Thomas Scott, an allergy and asthma specialist at the Wichita Clinic.
Symptoms in people with allergies tend to follow soon after the plants start pollinating, said Joel Fromer, an allergy and asthma specialist at the Allergy & Asthma Center.
Tye Pameticky is already feeling the effects.
"I've been spending a lot of time at Walgreens, I tell you," he said, referring to his purchases of Claritin-D as "the only thing I've been able to find that works."
Taking antihistamines even before symptoms begin is the best way to head off problems, the allergy experts say; it's much easier to prevent symptoms than to try to treat them.
Now is the time to start taking them because Labor Day weekend often is when symptoms are in full force. And this year's ragweed season could be a doozy.
Scott, Fromer and Dallas Peterson, a weed specialist for K-State Research and Extension, say the rains of spring and early summer provided good growing conditions for summer annual weeds.
"I suspect that this will be a significant ragweed season," Fromer said.
Peterson said ragweed is in the early stages of pollination. And it's not the only troublemaker: Quite a few of the summer annual weeds, including goldenrods and pigweeds, can cause allergy problems, too.
"This is probably prime time, here in the next couple weeks," he said.
Deborah Ballard-Reisch would agree with that assessment.
"Everything seems to be getting to me," she said after weeding "forests of stuff" from her flower beds. "I came in and my eyes were itching and I knew I was going to be in trouble again... and I was."
She had corrective eye surgery a few years ago, and she said her vision is affected if she takes antihistamines or decongestants. So she toughs it out with tea, steam and Vicks inhalers "and try to sleep as much as I can."
Saltwater rinses also can be used to soothe the nose and rinse away irritating allergens. "It's cheap and pretty effective," Scott said.
But once the allergens have been absorbed into the body, "you can't wash that away," he said.
He and Fromer said over-the-counter nonsedating antihistamines are the first approach to try. If that doesn't help, talk to your family physician; if prescription drugs don't help, consult an allergy specialist.
And remember, Scott cautioned, that allergies aren't the only problem this time of year. School is back in session, and it's "a breeding ground for spreading germs," he said. "So we get the conundrum every year of, 'Is it a sinus infection, is it a cold or is it allergies?' "
With any of the three, if symptoms don't ease in a week or so, call your doctor. Calling before then really isn't necessary in most cases, he said.