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Educational articles.

Gardening and Allergies

Gardening and Allergies
A couple of years ago, National Public Radio aired a review of a book called, Safe Sex in the Garden: And Other Propositions for an Allergy-Free World. What a title! The premise of the book is that how you garden, and what you plant, can have a big impact on how your allergies bother you. Gardening is a wonderful activity, but what you plant might make you sneeze, wheeze or itch. The author, Thomas Ogren, has been hired to advise on pollen-free landscapes at schools, businesses, even the Virginia headquarters of the American Lung Association.

Basically, avoid male plants because they make pollen. Female plants do not make pollen. By choosing plants with colorful flowers, you do yourself a huge favor. These plants rely on insects to pollinate them, not the wind. So they are less likely to bother your allergies. (If you are allergic to the insects, like honeybees, however, then disregard what I just said!)

It's a good idea to use your antihistamine pill or nose spray before you start your outdoor activities. Even though Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec treat allergy symptoms, they work even better at preventing allergic reactions. I also advise my horticulturally-inclined patients to wear gloves, goggles and respiratory masks to reduce exposure to pollen and other irritants while enjoying this hobby. When done working outdoors, it's a great idea to shower and wash your hair to remove excess dust and pollen. Also, place your clothes in a covered hamper until you get a chance to wash them.

Pick up a copy of Tom Ogren's book or visit Allergy-Free Gardening for more tips. He has great chapters on plants that cause skin rashes, and a great discussion on poisonous plants. At $14.95, it's probably less expensive than your co-pay to go see the doctor!

Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs.