Gardening Tips for Allergy Sufferers
While a garden can be a source of beauty, it also may contain plant pollens that can trigger both allergic rhinitis and asthma symptoms.
- Wind-borne pollinating plants, including trees, grasses and weeds, are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than flowering plants. They produce pollen that is light and almost invisible. Released in large quantities for reproduction, the pollens can be easily inhaled. These plants often have smaller blooms with little or no color.
- Bright and colorful plants often are insect-pollinated, producing pollens that are larger, heavier and stickier. These pollens, which are carried by insects and animals from plant to plant, are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- While female trees and shrubs are messier than male plants, they do not produce pollen and can actually help remove pollen from the air by trapping it. Avoid planting male trees and shrubs since they produce large amounts of pollen.
- Disease-resistant plants are less likely to produce mildew, rust and black spot, which can cause allergies.
- Native plants are already adapted to a climate and are often easier to grow and require less contact since they do not require extensive watering and fertilizer. These plants also often attract more butterflies, insects and birds which help reduce wind-borne pollination.
- If you do have high-pollen producing plants, keep them away from front or back doors, bedroom windows or other high-traffic areas.
- Some people find it helpful to limit your time outside to 15 minute intervals, twice a day, at first, and then gradually increase the time. This may prevent a full-blown attack.
- Avoid gardening during the early morning and late afternoon hours when pollen counts are likely to be highest.
- Take antihistamines or nasal sprays before you begin gardening rather that after symptoms start
- Wear a pollen mask and gloves to limit exposure
- Avoid touching your face and eyes while working outdoors.
- Do your gardening on days when the pollen count is low or when the day is cool, cloudy or less windy. Avoid hot weather, it can increase pollination.
- Gardening after a period of rain can be best because rain showers temporarily clear pollens from the air. Brief thunderstorms, however, can actually elevate pollen levels.
- Consider container gardens if your symptoms are too severe. Potted vegetables and flowers require less time outdoors to maintain.
- Wash hands, rinse eyes with cool water and change your clothes after coming indoors to remove clinging pollen. Shampoo hair before going to bed to prevent pollen from getting into bedding.