It’s a cruel irony to be a keen gardener with hay fever or other outdoor allergies. What are you supposed to do when your favorite hobby leaves your eyes streaming and your throat sore? Unfortunately, the plants and grass in your garden depend upon the pollen which triggers most yard allergies, so it’s challenging to have one without the other.
However, there are some steps that you can take to reduce the impact of allergens in your outdoor space. For instance, you can opt for plant varieties with pollen that won’t trigger your immune system. They are not as abundant as other species, but they are out there. Gardening at certain times of the day or shortly after a rain shower can help.
One of the easiest ways to create an allergy-friendly garden is to hire a lawn service to transform the space. You’ll get a dedicated team of experts, who can answer any questions you have about selecting plants and carrying out maintenance in a safe, comfortable manner. Your lawn care service is your ‘go-to’ resource for anything allergy-related.
Why Do Yard Allergies Affect Some People?
If you’ve ever wondered why your eyes water and you begin sneazing if you even so much as look at a flower, thank your overactive immune system. Around one in five people in the US suffer from an allergy, and most are fairly mild. In fact, yard allergies are a natural physical response. The problem is that the body overinflates this response and goes into overdrive.
For reasons which still aren’t entirely clear, some people develop sensitivities to harmless substances present in the air. Pollen is the most common, but mold, animal hair, and certain types of food can all trigger a reaction. Even though you’re not being invaded by an organism, your immune system releases an antibody called immunoglobulin E.
This attacks the unwanted substance. Unfortunately, the body also releases a chemical called histamine, and this is responsible for most of the allergy symptoms. Histamine has good intentions – it helps white blood cells flood the capillaries and fight the foreign substance – but it is the cause of all your woes if you suffer from hay fever.
What are the Symptoms of a Yard Allergy?
Common symptoms of outdoor allergies include sneezing, coughing, and rashes from things like poison ivy. Most sufferers get a runny or stuffy nose to go along with this, and their eyes begin to water. While everybody reacts in a slightly different way, you may find that your eyes feel itchy and sore. The feeling could extend to your throat, which will tighten and develop a scratchy sensation.
Head and earaches are common because yard allergies affect the sinuses. In some cases, sufferers temporarily lose their sense of smell until they have moved away from the source of the pollen. If you have quite severe and regular symptoms, particularly in the summer, you could feel more tired than usual. This is because your body is working overtime.
They involve the swelling of the sinuses and nasal cavities. As we know, the ears, nose, and throat are all connected, so you may experience a build-up of pressure in the ears. This can be unpleasant and, if you start to be in serious pain, you should consult your GP right away. The medical names for these conditions is rhinitis and sinusitis.
Plants Known to Cause Allergies
The most common yard allergies are caused by over-sensitivity to pollen. Pollen season usually lasts from late winter to late spring, as this is when plants are releasing the substance in an attempt to reproduce. While only a hundred of the 50,000 known tree species cause allergic reactions, you might have some of these plants in your garden.
When it comes to flowering plants, some of the worst offenders include mulberry bushes, sunflowers, lilies, and jasmine. The number of grasses and trees that triggers more alergies than plants. So, while we traditionally associate yard allergies with the pollen from big, open flowers, this is not usually the case.
Tree pollen is the more likely culprit, as the wind can carry it for miles, allowing it to infiltrate your home. Some species to avoid are alder, ash, beech, birch, mulberry, oak, pecan, sycamore, walnut, willow, and others. Some simple research on the internet can help people find trees that don’t cause allergy issues.
You can always ask your lawn care service for advice. The technicians will help you pick out plants with a low pollen count like roses or peonies.
Perhaps the trickiest triggers of all are the grass pollen and weed allergies. Even if you decide to leave flowering plants and trees out of your yard, it’s very difficult to avoid either of these species. The danger season for grass allergies starts in late spring and lasts throughout the summer. It can make garden maintenance (particularly mowing) a real chore.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around it, especially if your sensitivity to Bermuda, Johnson, Orchard or Kentucky Blue Grass is severe. You can attempt lawn maintenance tasks while wearing a protective face mask. This will help to alleviate some of the symptoms, but the best approach is still to hire the help of a lawn care service if mowing causes big problems.
Are There Any Reliable Ways to Monitor Pollen Count?
As around 35 million people in the US are allergic to pollen, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America regularly releases environmental statistics. During the transitional seasons, the organization helps homeowners to plan their outdoor activities according to when and where conditions will be most favorable. It does this by collecting and publishing pollen counts.
The term ‘pollen count’ refers to how many grains of pollen (the fine powder released by plants) are concentrated within a predefined air volume. Normally, the measurement used is one cubic meter. The more pollen that is ‘captured’ and recorded, the greater the chance of an unpleasant physical reaction. Allergy sufferers are advised to check pollen counts daily.
There are two common forms of pollen measurement. The first is a tool called a Vurkard volumetric spore trap. It sucks in a predetermined amount of air through a small hole to capture and contain pollen particles. The second is similar, but it is used mainly by meteorologists. They attach a spinning rod to the roof of a high building. It is covered in a sticky coating and, over the course of twenty-four hours, pollen grains collect on the outside. The meteorologist then takes the rod down and counts the number of particles. Both methods are fairly reliable, but only if the evaluator takes into account any environmental conditions which might affect the number or movement of the grains.
Pollen counts can fluctuate based on where you’re located, the climate, and weather conditions. Measurements are normally higher in the morning, for example. If you live in a warm region with infrequent rain, the chance of elevated pollen counts is always higher. Add dry, summery winds to the equation, and the numbers increase further.
While most of us are not too happy to welcome drizzle and showers, damp conditions can be a savior for allergy sufferers. According to experts, even a very small amount of rain can significantly reduce the amount of pollen in the air and stop plants from releasing more. When flowers get wet, they close their petals as protection, and this puts a stop to the dispersal of pollen grains, even if only for a brief amount of time.
The only real exception to the rule is thunderstorms because, right before the showers start, there are usually strong winds that push and pull pollen grains about in the air. This can have the effect of temporarily elevating the count, but any subsequent rain becomes a good counteractant. For this reason, some gardeners prefer to work immediately after bad weather.
How Do Mold Spores Affect Allergy Sufferers?
The bad news is that pollen isn’t the only substance that can trigger allergy symptoms. The effects of mold spores are often confused for hay fever because they cause many of the same reactions. They are also produced in similar environments (around organic matter). The big difference, however, and the thing which often distinguishes mold from pollen is the fact that mold allergies aren’t seasonal.
So, if your allergy symptoms don’t seem to line up with pollen counts or seasonal projections, you may not have a sensitivity to it all. Your body may be responding to high levels of mold in your home. As it thrives in the presence of heat and water, it is crucial to keep your pipework maintained and regularly check for leaks. Encourage good ventilation and invest in a dehumidifier if the building is prone to hot, damp conditions.
Do Insect Bites Ever Cause Allergic Reactions?
In the US, just five types of insects are known to cause serious allergic reactions in people. They are the honeybee, hornet, wasp, yellow jacket, and fire ant. Even with their capacity to trigger certain symptoms, these insects are rarely dangerous. Only around 3% of adults experience life-threatening reactions, so a little pain is usually the only concern.
Nevertheless, if you are bitten by an insect and your symptoms are persistent or debilitating in any way, you should consult a GP. They will be able to diagnose the bite and determine whether or not you require medication. Typical symptoms include itching and redness at the contact site. You may also feel a tingling or prickling of the skin.
In some cases, there will be substantial swelling of the tissue around the bite, but even severe swelling is rarely as serious as it looks. If this occurs, you’re advised to apply a topical disinfectant and cool the area with ice. If the swelling does not subside after within two to three hours, seek medical advice. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to avoid these insects.
For example, you should avoid walking or working in the garden while barefoot, especially in the height of summer. White clover is a common lawn weed that grows up and down the country. It is irresistible to bees and, if you step on it, you could end up with a nasty sting. It might be worth implementing a lawn treatment program for sustained, seasonal weed control.
Are There Any Effective Tips for Sensitive Gardeners?
Whether or not you have serious difficulty gardening during high pollen season will depend on the severity of your allergy. Most sufferers can’t avoid a stuffy nose or runny eyes while they work because there’s no way to eliminate irritants from the air completely. All you can do is pick your moments carefully and take sensible precautions.
Usually, the symptoms of mild allergies dissipate quickly after exposure is limited. So, your eyes might sting a little when mowing the lawn, but they’ll probably return to normal quite quickly after you head back inside. Of course, this isn’t the same for everybody and some people experience much more severe physical responses.
Ultimately, if you are one of the few people who suffer from serious physical comfort during high pollen seasons, it is best to leave the gardening to others. Mowing the lawn can send millions of tiny pollen grains into the air. If the conditions are warm and breezy, they are likely to stick to your clothes and follow you back inside the house.
What you can do is hire a reliable lawn care company to help you maintain the health of the grass, particularly in the spring and summertime. As mentioned, they can also help you pick out low pollen plants and trees. Dioecious trees, for instance, are an excellent choice for gardens. The female varieties do not produce pollen. If they are not paired with or close to male varieties, (which do emit pollen), they grow beautifully without triggering allergic reactions.
Some dioecious trees and shrubs include Japanese Aucuba, plum yew, ash, poplar, willow, osage orange, mulberry, and stinking cedar. One another way to control pollen levels is to keep a close eye on the growth of weeds. If possible, they should be hand-pulled before they are mature enough to start producing pollen. Alternatively, you can use high-quality herbicides to treat the soil and sustain regular, effective weed control.
The Final Word on Dealing with Yard Allergies
Even though yard allergies are rarely serious, they can feel very debilitating for those who enjoy spending time outdoors and like to tend to their gardens. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself against the worst of the symptoms, but it isn’t always possible to avoid them. The reality is that you’re the only one who can decide whether itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a lot of sneezing are worth the trouble.
Do remember that, just because gardening causes you discomfort, you don’t have to settle for a poor quality or mediocre lawn. There are plenty of care and maintenance services out there, which can help you mow, fertilize, weed, and plant during the high-risk seasons. Lush, green grass is something that all homeowners deserve, so don’t give up on yours when pesky pollen comes out to play.