Sagebrush is more than just the Nevada state flower. It could also be the symbol for selling giant-sized boxes of tissue and allergy medicine this time of year.
Sagebrush, designated as the state emblem in 1917, combines with ragweed and tumbleweed to cause more stuffy heads, itchy throats and coughs in the fall than during any other season in the Carson Valley.
Doctors and medical clinics have seen an increase in patients in the past month because of this, said allergist Dr. Stuart Stoloff of Carson City.
The allergy season often catches people by surprise as many patients confuse the symptoms with having cold and flu bugs. And with the recent start of school, many parents think it is normal for their children to carry back viruses, he said.
"This is the time of year most people get affected," Stoloff said. "It happens to transpire at the same time kids are going back to school," Stoloff said, causing many to think they caught a bug from their children.
The typical season for allergies in the Carson Valley runs from mid-August to the beginning of the second frost. That is when the pollination of sagebrush, tumbleweed and ragweed occurs.
The combination of these three plants cause many people nasal congestion, itchy eyes and throats, runny noses, sore throats and fatigue. Many contact lens wearers also suffer from allergies to the lining in their eyes from the same allergens, Stoloff said.
Areas around the Carson Valley are home to sprawling miles of all three plants. The sagebrush is native to Nevada, but tumbleweed, or Russian thistle and ragweed have found their way own way to the state.
The tumbleweed is a round, brushy annual plant that grows from 1/2 to 3 feet tall. It is one of the most common and troublesome weeds in drier regions of the United States. Ragweed, a blooming yellow pungant-smelling plant, and tumbleweed are annual plants that die after blooming.
While sagebrush will always be a part of the Nevada landscape, the others are indeed weeds and should be removed if a property owner is bothered by them, said Sue Donaldson, acting horticulture specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
The best way to reduce allergies this time of year is to stay inside and keep windows closed. This will protect the sufferer from inhaling the pollen that freely floats through the air.
"One of the smartest things you can do is to try to keep your house closed up," Donaldson said. "Don't open windows or hang your clothes out to dry."
Running outdoors or physical activity is also not a good idea for allergy suffers during this time of year, she said.