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Suffer From Seasonal Allergies? Which Plants Are to Blame?

If you live in the South, you may find yourself looking forward to winter and the relief it often brings from your seasonal allergies. While the southern U.S. is renowned for its peach and pecan harvests and picturesque magnolia blossoms, some of these trees--along with plants like ragweed, goldenrod and dandelions--can wreak havoc on the respiratory systems of those sensitive to pollen. 

Read on to learn more about five types of sun-loving plants and trees that can aggravate your sinuses and leave you feeling like you're suffering from a summer cold, as well as what you'll want to do to ease your symptoms and help you actually enjoy yourself during allergy season.

Ragweed

About 75 percent of all Americans who have some type of plant allergy or sensitivity are allergic to ragweed, making it one of the most sneeze-inducing plants in the U.S. This tall weed gets its name from its unkempt, raggedy appearance, and its lightweight pollen is easily spread by even a slight breeze.

When it comes to ragweed, an ounce of prevention often is worth a pound of cure; spreading weed killer on areas where ragweed tends to thrive can prevent it from ever getting started, but attempting to cut it after it's already begun to grow can only further the spread of its pollen. 

Pecan Trees

Georgia is known for its plump, record-setting pecans, but for many residents, these trees can cause misery. While few may consider pecans a significant source of pollen, these tree nuts are second only to ragweed when it comes to widespread sensitivity, and they can also cause issues for those who have severe anaphylactic reactions to peanuts or tree nuts. 

If you opt for a family trip to a "pick-your-own" farm this summer, you'll often want to avoid those that advertise their pecan harvests. If you do find yourself battling fatigue, sneezing or a sore throat after your trip to a pecan farm, you've likely just narrowed down one of your more severe allergens.

Ash Leaf Maple Trees

Like the other trees on this list, maple trees, especially ash leaf maples, can generate some particularly allergenic pollen. These trees tend to bloom in late spring and are often the last trees to lose their bright red or yellow leaves in the fall. 

Although these trees are prized for their attractive appearance and rapid growth rate, you'll want to avoid planting any new maples if you or a member of your household suffers from seasonal allergies. 

Elm Trees 

There are several varieties of elm tree in the U.S., and, unfortunately for allergy sufferers, each type blooms at a different time of year. Certain species of elm trees begin flowering and distributing pollen in the spring, while others wait until late summer or even fall to begin their reproductive cycle. 

If you live in a neighborhood that has had a resurgence of elm trees since the spread of Dutch Elm disease at the end of the 20th century, these trees may be the source of most of your respiratory symptoms, coughing and chronic sore throat. 

Mulberry

The dark purple and bright red berries produced by the mulberry tree are a favorite treat for local wildlife, including birds, squirrels, rabbits and deer. Because of this, mulberry trees have quickly proliferated throughout the southern U.S., leaving a sea of coughing and sneezing humans in their wake.

Mulberry trees are different from most other types of flowering trees in that they've been shown to aggravate allergies for those with sensitivities; often, it's the trees with the largest blossoms, such as apple, cherry and peach trees, that tend to produce the least allergic reaction in sensitive individuals, but mulberry trees are a distinct exception to this rule.  

Even in urban areas, it can be hard to get away from the plants and trees that are making you miserable. Visiting an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist at the beginning of allergy season can help you formulate an allergy management plan and narrow down your specific "trigger" allergens to keep you healthy all summer long.