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Allergies Can Dig Into Gardening's Fun

But planting low-allergen species, avoiding high pollen hours can help

SUNDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- For gardeners with allergies, it can be difficult to enjoy their passion for plants when they have to cope with the misery of sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion and, in some cases, an asthma attack.

"Gardening outside during times of high pollen counts puts patients at risk for severe allergic symptoms," Dr. Warren Filley, an allergist/immunologist in Oklahoma City, said in a prepared statement.

"Avoidance measures, as well as the use of medications and allergy immunotherapy, can make the difference between having fun in the garden and being miserable," said Filley, a long-time gardener who suffers from allergies.

An allergist/immunologist can help determine which plant species are causing allergies and offer advice on the best time of day or season to work in the garden, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). For example, pollen levels are typically lower on rainy, cloudy and windless days.

Gardeners can also control their allergies by careful selection of plants. Certain flowers, trees and grasses are less likely to produce pollen. These include: cacti, cherry, dahlia, daisy, geranium, iris, magnolia, rose, snapdragon and tulip.

Plants that are highly allergenic include: ash, cedar, cottonwood, oak, maple, pine, saltgrass and timothy.

Skin testing is the best way to determine which plants will trigger allergic reactions in individuals, said the AAAAI, which offered some additional allergy prevention tips for gardeners:

  • Whenever working around plants likely to cause an allergic reaction, avoid touching your eyes or face.
  • Consider wearing a mask to reduce the amount of pollen spores that you inhale.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to minimize skin contact with allergens.
  • Leave gardening tools and clothing, such as gloves and shoes, outside to avoid bringing allergens indoors.
  • Shower immediately after gardening or doing other yard work.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about allergies.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, April 2008

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