Group urges allergy sufferers
to try out low-pollen plants
April 16, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Anne Kellan
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Outdoor lovers who suffer from allergy problems that keep them from enjoying their yards and gardens can get some relief if they focus on planting the right kind of trees and flowers.
The American Lung Association is helping by providing landscapers and gardeners with some guidelines to follow for a comfortable experience.
The association points out that plants with heavier pollens are less likely to cause the symptoms that irritate allergy sufferers.
It is the yellow dust released into the air by plants with light, loose pollen that causes discomfort to allergy patients.
The dust finds its way into clothes and pet hair, and eventually into homes. When inhaled, the pollens cause typical allergic responses: asthma problems, swollen, itchy eyes and runny noses.
"Airborne pollens are the pollens that tend to give us the greatest problems because those are the pollens that we come into contact with," said June Deen of the Lung Association. "They're tiny. They're easily breathed through the respiratory tract."
Heavier pollen -- including pine pollen, which because it is more visible often gets the blame for allergy problems -- does not cause most of the symptoms.
"Pine is generally not an important allergen although it puts out tremendous amounts of pollen," said Dr. Keith Phillips of the Emory School of Medicine, "but at the same time that pine trees are pollinating, oaks are pollinating."
A key to identifying plants with heavier pollen, the Lung Association says, is that those plants attract bees and birds, which are relied on in place of air to do the work of spreading the pollen around.
In addition to pine trees, the association recommends apple and cherry trees, dogwoods, figs, magnolias, firs, tulip trees and redwoods.
Among shrubs and flowers, the association endorses boxwoods, hibiscus, azaleas, camellias, daffodils, geraniums, impatiens, violets, zinnias, pansies, orchids and periwinkles, among others.
Of course, even if allergy-prone people could plant an entirely pollen-free yard, they still couldn't tell their neighbors what to plant. So no matter how careful allergy sufferers are, pollen can still be a problem.
"Well, you potentially could plant a lower allergy garden, but while you're out there planting it, you will bombarded by oak pollen, maples, grasses," Phillips said.
That's why experts suggest sufferers spend as much time as possible indoors with the windows closed and the air conditioning on. But that's not much fun. So the American Lung Association says allergy sufferers who don't want to abandon the great outdoors should follow its guidelines, and always shower upon re-entering the house to decrease the amount of pollen they bring inside.
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