Cool, pleasant autumn weather prompted my husband to suggest we get our yard and garden ready for fall. Later on, he complained of itchy eyes and a stuffy nose. “It feels like my allergies are acting up,” he said. “Do fall allergies exist?”
The short answer: Absolutely. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, of the people allergic to pollen-producing plants, about 75% have sensitivity to ragweed—one of the primary fall allergy culprits. In fact, the AAFA estimates that 10-20% of Americans suffer from itchy eyes, irritated skin, runny noses, and even interrupted sleep as result of ragweed pollen.
In addition to wind-borne pollen, mold also presents a significant source of aggravation for fall allergy-sufferers. The combination of rain and fallen leaves creates a breeding ground for mold.
Despite these seemingly grim odds, it’s still possible to enjoy fall weather in your garden! Check out these tips.
- Consult your allergist. From the first itch or sneeze, talk to your doctor and devise a plan for keeping your fall allergies under control. If this fall marks your first experience with pollen and mold irritations, a visit with the allergist is essential for finding your allergy triggers.
- Dress appropriately. Wear long sleeves and pants to keep pollen and mold spores away from your skin. Gardening gloves not only help you avoid unsightly cuts and blisters but offer a great line of defense against allergens. Sunglasses and a hat are also ideal for keeping airborne irritants away from eyes and hair, respectively.
- Wear a mask. If fall allergies cause a significant amount of discomfort, a mask rated N95 by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety will reduce your exposure and help you maximize time outdoors.
- Schedule your yard work. According to WebMD, pollen counts are at their highest in the morning. Late afternoon and early evening are often better options for working in the garden. Use handy websites and tools, such as Pollen.com, to help you stay on top of pollen counts in your area.
- Choose landscaping plants wisely. Experts recommend that allergy-sufferers opt for female plants, which unlike most male plants, don’t produce pollen.
- Use an air purifier. Adding a HEPA air purifier to your home helps keep your indoor air free of a variety of airborne irritants, including pollen and mold.
- Keep it clean. Keep your gardening shoes in the garage or other area outside of the house, if possible, and place clothes in the laundry quickly to avoid spreading pollen throughout your house. Shower and wash your hair immediately to remove any remaining pollen or mold.
I hope you will find these suggestions helpful and that your outdoor gardening fun won’t be cut short by fall pollens, mold, and other seasonal irritants. Do you have any tips for gardening with allergies? Tell us about them in the comments.