If you're allergic to ragweed, the onset of the fall can be a season of never ending itchiness and a terrible time of coughing and sneezing.

Ragweed allergies affect as many as 20 percent of Americans. This common weed is prevalent in open fields and rural areas, but even city dwellers aren't immune to experiencing effects either. This is because ragweed spores are released in large quantities and can travel many miles away.

Physical and Emotional Effects

In addition to physical symptoms, you may find yourself experiencing psychological effects as well, including malaise and depression. This finding was reported in Psychosomatic Medicine by researchers affiliated with the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. They closely followed almost 60 people for several ragweed seasons, including some who suffered from ragweed allergies and some who didn't. To determine exactly how ragweed affects people with allergies and what impact it has on their physical and mental health, each of the participants were asked to rate their mood and energy level on a questionnaire. During the testing period, participants with allergies were required to stop taking allergy medications in order for researchers to get an accurate picture of their symptoms.

How Ragweed Allergies Affect Mood

The findings revealed that patients with allergies experienced more mental fatigue and negative moods during the fall/ragweed season than any other time of year. The allergy sufferers' responses were also significantly different from respondents who don't react to ragweed.

Although there could be several different explanations for this relationship, researchers believe that exposure to ragweed prompts the body to release proteins that activate the allergic response. These proteins can trigger the brain to feel depressed.

Fighting Back

If you find that ragweed season kicks your allergies into high gear, whether or not you suffer from depression, there are several things you can do to get some relief:

  • Pay attention to the pollen count in your area and plan to stay indoors when it's high. You can get this information through your local newspaper, radio station, or through the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) website.
  • Run your air conditioning to filter indoor air when the ragweed pollen count is high.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking antihistamines or other allergy medicines to control your symptoms. Some allergists suggest starting these a few weeks before the height of the ragweed season in order to get the full benefit when you need it.
  • Avoid foods such as chamomile tea, honey, and sunflower seeds, which can cause oral allergy symptoms in people with ragweed allergies.

If these things aren't enough to ease your ragweed allergies, ask your doctor whether you're a good candidate for allergy shots to help build up your immunity to ragweed and other triggers.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

Psychiatric News/American Psychiatric Association

Psychosomatic Medicine