For those cursed with seasonal allergies, the month of August is a challenge. That's due to the fact that all those pesky ragweed plants have started wafting their potent pollens into the air.
If you've ever looked at a microscopic photo of ragweed pollen, you'll wonder how any of us escape the irritation of what appear to be spike-covered balls.
But, though many of us are somehow immune to their effect, for true victims of ragweed allergy....like hubby George and daughter Sherri.....the pollen particles spell misery with a capital "M."
Here in Chautauqua County, as throughout the northeast, mid-August to the first frost is the heart of sneezin' season.
In the long-ago days when our family all lived under one roof, the entire clan dreaded this late-summer-into-fall period when "pass the Kleenex" was the constant rallying cry. Even though daughter Becky, son Tim and I weren't affected by the late-summer pollens, empathy for the stricken members of the group caused all of us to suffer together.
It was back in my before-marriage days when I came to understand how miserable life could be for those cursed with allergies. During my college years, I worked for a Texas doctor who specialized in treating allergy sufferers.
Dr. Emory good-naturedly referred to his patients as the "Sneeze, Wheeze and Itch Bunch." When he noticed a patient rubbing an itchy, runny nose with a soggy hankie or the back of a hand, he'd declare they were preforming the traditional "allergy salute."
These days, if you see someone going through these motions time and again, you can be pretty sure you're watching a hay-fever sufferer in the midst of his misery.
But many folks don't realize they're fighting this seasonal problem. Instead, they try to convince themselves it's just a cold hanging on.
One long-ago September, our nephew Bill stopped by for a visit. Like George and Sherri, Bill had a runny nose and red, droopy eyes. But, in spite of the fact that hay fever runs in the Schenk family, Bill assured us his problem was only a lingering cold.
"I'm sure I'd know if I had hay fever, " he said.
That afternoon, we accepted a neighbor's invitation to pick some corn from a nearby field for an evening cookout. Leaving Sherri and George at home with their Kleenex box at hand, Becky, Tim, Bill and I headed into the corn rows for a fresh supply of sweet corn.
Unfortunately, in addition to the lush corn crop, the field was home to a vast collection of mature ragweed plants.
It took less than ten minutes for Bill's hay fever to hit him full force. With swelling, runny eyes and wracked by endless sneezes, he stumbled back to the house.
Since then, Bill's come to realize that he, too, has inherited the family's sensitivity to the seasonal ragweed curse.
If you or someone you know is being plagued with what seems like a lingering cold, the problem might be that pesky ragweed pollen. Be gentle and understanding as the sufferers sneeze their way through the season, waving their hankies in surrender.
Remind allergy victims that frost will bring the curse to an end. In the meantime, keep them supplied with tissues and be sure they stay out of those corn fields.