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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Newsroom > What's New
 
Keep Your Green Thumb, Avoid the Red Nose

If you have a green thumb but are bothered by a red, stuffy nose caused by seasonal allergies, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) offers the following information to help you maximize time spent tending plants rather than sniffles.

As many as 45.5 million people have hay fever (allergic rhinitis), which can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, wheezing, cough, and a burning sensation on the roof of the mouth or in your throat.

Hay fever has nothing to do with hay or fever. Rather, the culprit is pollen from plants, trees, grasses, weeds and mold spores. Peak season is usually March through October but varies by region depending on when pollination occurs. Tree pollen can begin as early as January in the South, for example.

Allergists, doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, offer the following gardening tips for those with allergies:

  • Garden when pollen counts are not high. Peak pollen times depend on the plant, the weather and your location. Watch your local forecast, and talk with an allergist, who can identify which plants trigger your symptoms and provide practical tips and treatment options tailored to your situation.
  • Take allergy medications before you begin gardening rather than after symptoms start.
  • Wear a pollen mask and gloves to limit exposure.
  • Avoid touching your face and eyes while working outdoors.
  • Watch for rain showers to temporarily clear pollen from the air. Brief thunderstorms, however, can actually increase pollen counts.
  • Wash hands often and rinse eyes with cool water after coming indoors to remove clinging pollen. Shower and wash hair at night to prevent pollens from getting into bedding.

Allergy offenders

Wind-borne pollinating plants, including trees, grasses and weeds, are most likely to cause an allergic reaction. They produce pollen that is light, almost invisible, and released in large quantities that can be easily inhaled.

Offender Common Culprits When Symptoms Typically Occur
Trees Alder, birches, elms, willows, poplars, beeches, chestnuts or oaks, maples and box elders, hickories, cedars, ashes, junipers, cypress, sequoia and sycamores Late winter into spring or early summer
Grasses Bermuda grass*, bluegrass, orchard grass, ryegrass, timothy, fescue, sweet vernal Late spring and early summer
Weeds Ragweed**, mugwort, Russian thistle, pigweed, sagebrush, English plantain, goosefeet and cocklebur Late summer into autumn

* Bermuda grass often releases pollen year-round and is common in the southern states.
** Ragweed is the most common cause of allergic rhinitis. It also can trigger asthma. The weed is most prevalent east of the Mississippi.

Plants that get the green light

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, instead of the wind, are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

It's essential to find out what you're allergic to so that you can find out when that species is pollinated and limit your time outdoors during that brief period of time. Here are some of the plants, trees and shrubs that are less likely to trigger allergies:

Apple
Azalea
Begonia
Cacti
Daffodil
Dogwood
Hibiscus
Hyacinth
Lilac
Magnolia
Pear
Plum
Rose
Sunflower
Tulip
Zinnia

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