Ragweed season in southern Quebec back with a vengeance

Sorry, allergy sufferers. Your ragweed allergies are going to get worse before they get better this year.

Urban areas notoriously fertile breeding ground for the prolific weed

Kelly O'Rourke made a poster to demonstrate the difference between goldenrod (left) and ragweed (right). (Laura Pellicer/CBC)

Have you got a sore throat, an itchy nose and watering eyes? 

We're sorry to break it to you, but your ragweed allergies are going to get worse before they get better this year. 

This is goldenrod, not ragweed. The pollen is transported by insects and is not airborne.
This is ragweed. If you let it seed, it can launch a million proteins (pollen) into the atmosphere. (iStock)

Montreal-are landscaper Kelly O'Rourke said the combination of dry weather and ample rain in Montreal has made the perfect growing environment for the unpopular plant. 

From about August to October, ragweed is the chief culprit for allergy sufferers. It is not the only weed that causes allergic reactions, but ragweed is the most important.

Unfortunately for city dwellers, ragweed especially likes to grow in disturbed soil. Ragweed grows faster and larger and produces much more pollen in urban conditions, mainly because of the slightly warmer micro-climate.

O'Rourke told CBC Daybreak on Monday that the best defence against ragweed is to pick it as quickly as possible.

"You have to get it before it seeds. Once it seeds, each plant can release one million protein, or pollen, at once. And it's airborne," she said.

Pulling the whole plant, roots and all, is essential to preventing it from returning time and time again over the next few weeks.

"They're quite easy to pull. Keep your property mowed and maintained — that's the key," she said.

Last week, the town of Hudson, Que., offered a 10-cent per kilo bounty on ragweed. 

The director of the town's parks and recreation department said she would also put up $100 of her own money as a prize for the person who collects the most ragweed before Sept. 14.

Tips for allergy sufferers

According to Montreal Public Health, there are a few things you can do to limit your exposure to the allergen. From the department's website:

  • Stay away from places where ragweed is growing.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed, especially at night, because ragweed releases its pollen early in the morning.
  • Avoid outdoor activities when the concentration of pollen in the air is high (especially between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the weather is hot, dry and windy)
  • Avoid mowing your own lawn or raking up leaves yourself.
  • Avoid drying your clothes outside from mid-July to the end of September.
  • As needed, use an air conditioning or air filtering system. Keep the filters clean.
  • Avoid contact with other irritants, such as tobacco smoke, which can aggravate allergy symptoms.
  • See a doctor if the symptoms persist or worsen or if they make it hard for you to function normally.


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