Enjoy Allergy-Free Gardening

Experts offer sneeze-free gardening advice

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Gardening is one of life's simple pleasures. But for the 35 million Americans who suffer from hay fever or seasonal allergies, having a green thumb means suffering from symptoms like a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.

Allergens, such as pollen and molds, peak in the warm weather months, but experts say allergies shouldn't keep you away from the pleasures of allergy-free gardening. Knowing what type of plants and trees are most likely to trigger allergies and planning gardening time strategically can help reduce sneezing and wheezing caused by seasonal allergies.

Mary Jelks, MD, author of Allergy Plants, says many people mistakenly think that plants with big, showy blossoms, like lilies, dahlias, and roses, are allergy triggers, but actually the opposite is true. Plants with small, insignificant flowers are most likely to produce large amounts of pollen that are released into the wind and can cause an allergic reaction.

"If you have plants that have pretty flowers, they attract butterflies and aren't as apt to create pollen because they are pollinated by insects," Jelks tells WebMD.

Other plants that produce flowers for allergy-free gardening include crocus, narcissus, snapdragon, daffodil, hyacinth, pansy, tulip, hydrangea, daisy, and sunflower.

Jelks says some people may be irritated by flowers that release a strong scent, but that type of reaction is not related to pollen or seasonal allergies and is caused by a reaction to the oils the blossom contains.