Just say no...to runny eyes and sneezing in the garden.
As an allergy sufferer, I understand how hard it is to maintain a beautiful outdoor space when every time you go outside, you body lets you down. Allergies are the body’s natural defense to things it doesn’t like, in this case ‘allergens’. For me, that includes pollens and molds. When I come into contact with one of these allergens by inhaling or against my skin, my body produces histamines, a defense mechanism that works to stop the access of whatever it is reacting to. If you are an allergy sufferer and a gardener like me, here are a few tips to help make your summer a little more enjoyable.
There are definitely some plants, trees and types of lawn that you should avoid. Daisies, sunflowers and mums are at the top of most peoples allergen lists because they are closely related to ragweed. I learned this when I invested in some huge potted mums and placed them at the front door in my planters. I had horrible watery eyes for weeks and couldn’t figure out what was setting them of. If you love these blooms, keep them to the back of the yard and away from the front door so that the pollen isn’t getting into the house. Instead, plant roses or hydrangeas. Both of these flowering options have low pollen counts. When it comes to trees, avoid the birches, poplars, willows and even cedars! All of these options are high offenders as are any trees that are male. Male trees (non-fruit-producing) like holly; pump out large amounts of pollen as they are trying to fertilize the females of their species. Even your lawn can produce allergies, especially rye and fescue blends.
There are also some ideal times of day to be outside to avoid having an allergic reaction to your plants. Gardening in the morning while it is cool outside without any wind is the best time for low pollen counts. As the day warms up, or a breeze starts, the plants start to release pollen into the air and into your lungs. Unfortunately, the best time to be in the garden also happens to be the exact same conditions that mosquitos love. In fact, mosquitos are the perfect indicator of low pollen counts. Unfortunately, I haven’t decided if they are a lesser evil than my stuffy nose and watery eyes.
Always make sure to remove the pollen before you go indoors. Pollen sticks to hair, clothes, and even skin. Wearing a removable light jacket, clothes and a hat will allow you to leave the pollen at the door when you come in. Alternatively, have a shower after gardening to ensure that the pollen isn’t being spread to the carpet of the fabric furniture. Pet owners should also know that pollen will attach to your pets coat so even if you don’t have an allergy to cats or dogs, you might have a reaction to the allergens that they are bringing in from the garden.
The best line of defense for allergy sufferers, start taking an anti-histamine BEFORE you go out to do your garden chores. The bodies' reaction to allergens is to produce histamines, so by taking allergy pills which prevent their production, you can alleviate some of the symptoms before they even happen.