Avoid allergens to reap the rewards of gardening

The beauty of budding plants and bouquet of aromas are sources of satisfaction for many gardeners. For allergy sufferers, though, gardening can be as much a chore as pursuit of passion.

Pollen from trees, shrubs and grasses can cause an onslaught of allergy symptoms, including sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion and in some cases, an asthma attack.

But sensitive people can take a few simple steps to minimize their risk of exposure to bothersome allergens, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

“Gardening outside during times of high pollen counts puts patients at risk for severe allergic symptoms,” said Dr. Summit Shah, allergist and President of Premier Allergy & Asthma. “Avoidance measures, as well as the use of medications and allergy shots, can make the difference between having fun in the garden and being miserable.”

An allergist/immunologist can help determine what plant species are causing an allergic reaction and advise on the best times of day or season to work in the garden. For example, pollen levels are typically lower on rainy, cloudy and windless days. Immunotherapy (allergy shots), medications and other treatments can also help reduce symptoms.

People with allergies can also trim irritation by carefully choosing the plants they include in their landscaping or garden. Certain flowers, trees and grasses are naturally better suited for the gardens of allergic people. They are less likely to produce bothersome pollen and will still add color and variety to the garden.

These include:

The best way to determine which plants will trigger reactions is through skin testing at an allergist/immunologist’s office. An allergist/immunologist can help patients develop strategies to avoid troublesome plants and pollen and can prescribe medication to alleviate symptoms.

OTHER TIPS TO CONSIDER

Whenever working around plants likely to cause an allergic reaction, avoid touching your eyes or face. You may also consider wearing a mask to reduce the amount of pollen spores that you breathe in. Wear gloves and long sleeves and 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.

Contact an allergist/immunologist to identify specific causes of allergic reactions or to get information on treatment options and tips to reduce allergen exposure. An allergist/immunologist is the best qualified medical professional to manage the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of allergies and asthma.

Author
Dr. Summit Shah

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