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Am I Allergic to Goldenrod?

Posted on: 07/24/2012

by Peter M.G. Deane, M.D.

In early Autumn you see goldenrod flowers all around. At the same time, allergies are often acting up. Are you allergic to goldenrod? It seems oblivious—it’s everywhere.
Actually, just because we get symptoms when we see goldenrod flowers doesn’t mean that we get symptoms because of the goldenrod.  It turns out that at the same time as the goldenrod is flowering; ragweed pollen is in the air. Ragweed is an unremarkable plant which grows in the same sorts of areas goldenrod and other weeds do. It “flowers” too, but they are very small. No insects go to them.  So instead of making showy flowers to get insects to move their pollen around, the ragweed plant dumps millions of pollen grains into the wind instead. You can’t see pollen in the air, but we all inhale it. And ragweed pollen is very strongly allergenic too.
So you don’t have allergies to the goldenrod—but you sure can be allergic to the weed pollens that are in the air at the same time. 

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