Trees, plants and gardening
If you have asthma, your symptoms may be triggered by gardening or exposure to certain trees and plants. This is due to the pollen they produce, which is released into the air. If you have an allergy to these pollens, there are two main ways it can affect your asthma. The allergy itself can sometimes produce allergic inflammation (swelling) in the airways. Alternatively, contact with (or breathing in) the pollen can trigger an asthma attack.
Plants and gardens can bring about endless sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion, scratchy throats or asthma flare-ups.
If you are being triggered by trees and plants, you can reduce your risk by taking the following steps:
- Choose a low pollen producing grass that doesn’t require frequent mowing. Ask a family member or friend to do the mowing for you if possible.
- Keep windows closed on high pollen days and switch your air conditioning to recirculate.
- Remove weeds regularly, as their flowers and seeds can cause asthma flare-ups.
- Wear a mask while gardening.
- Garden in the morning while there is dew on the ground. This helps stop the pollen from being released into the air.
- Change your clothes and have a shower after gardening to avoid spreading the allergens inside your home.
Unfortunately, you can’t control what pollen gets blown into your yard, so no matter where you live or what’s in your backyard, it’s important to keep up with your regular asthma medicines.
Thankfully, there are a wide variety of plants that are low allergen. When considering plants for your garden, protect your allergies and choose plants pollinated by birds and insects. If gardening, plants or trees are a trigger for your asthma, it’s best to avoid both high-pollen and wind-pollinated options.
Trees or shrubs that are high in pollen and rely on wind include Cypress, Box Hedges and Pine Trees. Avoid trees such as Alder, Birch, Ash, Willow, Elm, Olive, Mulberry and White Cedar.
Wind-pollinated plants – grasses, weeds and certain trees – are often the biggest culprits when it comes to allergies and asthma in the garden. They use wind to carry pollen from plant to plant – and many of them flower during spring. This type of pollen is light and can travel long distances depending on the wind conditions and other factors.
Plants that have non-obvious flowers (called cryptic flowers) are also usually best to avoid.
For more tips about managing your asthma and hay fever, visit our Asthma and Allergy Hub.