Controlling Fall Allergies in the Yard and Garden

fall allergies and plant pollensWhen it comes to working or relaxing in the park, yard, or garden, those who suffer from seasonal allergies often pay a price during the fall months. In susceptible individuals, late summer and early fall mean puffy, itchy eyes, sniffling and sneezing, and even asthma attacks. Allergic reactions can affect the eyes, ears, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach.

Pollen set adrift causes “hay fever,” also known as allergic rhinitis. When pollen grains enter the nasal passages, the lining becomes inflamed and also produces excess mucus.

While tree pollens are more abundant in the spring and early summer months, hay fever is actually worse in the fall. Grass, weed and herbaceous plant pollens or mold spores are the likely cause.

Don’t blame goldenrod

The most common allergen in the garden is grass pollen. While not all pollen grains cause hay fever, those that are small, abundant and buoyant enough to float in the air can be very allergenic. In late summer, grasses, common roadside weeds and garden plants cause most of the problems.

goldenrod fall allergies

Often goldenrod (Solidago) takes the blame, but ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) is actually the more troublesome of the two. Surprisingly, allergies are worse in urban areas than in the country, mostly due to poor plant selection and overplanting.

What is the best weather and time of day to be outdoors?

Those allergic to mold spores will have problems on warm, damp days, and just after a storm. For those who react to pollen, calm, sunny days when pollen sacs open can cause issues. But the worst weather days for allergy sufferers are those that are dry, sunny, and windy.

While avoiding the great outdoors is preferred, the best time of day for allergy sufferers is late morning to late afternoon. While going outside in the cooler weather of the early evening seems logical, cooler air currents cause pollen and spores to fall to earth at that time.

fall allergies grass pollen

Here are some tips for avoiding outdoor allergy symptoms:

  • Stay indoors if possible; close house and car windows.
  • Wear protective clothing to cover as much bare skin as possible.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear sunglasses, goggles, or a mask.
  • Remove outdoor clothing and hats outdoors. Wash them promptly.
  • Wash hair after spending time outside.
  • Wash pets that spend time outdoors frequently, or keep them outside.
  • Change pillow cases frequently.

Another way to control pollen exposure in the landscape is to select plants that produce less pollen. In response to the increasing numbers of American allergy and asthma sufferers, California horticulturalist, Tom Ogren, promotes what he calls “allergy-free gardening”.

Ogren recommends biodiversity in the selection of street trees and even developed a plant allergy scale (Ogren Plant Allergy Scale, OPALS™. He also offers plant and tree lists in his books. Since female plants do not produce pollen, many highly-rated trees on his list happen to be female. Keep in mind that selecting “allergy-free” plants and trees does not rule out native plants, and a wide variety of common trees, shrubs, flowers and houseplants received good ratings.

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