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Gardening With Allergies

21 tips for flower lovers everywhere.
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WebMD Feature

Putzing in the garden is nothing less than therapy. It's even good exercise, if you exert enough effort. But the sneezing and stuffy-headed feeling that lingers afterwards -- that's the downside of gardening with allergies.

What's at the Root of Your Plant Allergy Problem?

Most garden-variety flowers -- believe it or not -- won't tickle your nose. That's because flowers don't really produce much pollen, says Richard Weber, MD, an allergist with the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. "When people do have trouble with flowers, it's usually because they are sensitive to a flower's strong smell -- not the flower pollen. They have nonallergic rhinitis -- not an allergy."

It's the green stuff covering your car that's the worst offender -- and it's caused by male trees, says Tom Ogren, MS, author of Allergy-Free Gardening,Safe Sex in the Garden, and allergyfree-gardening.com.

"The urban landscape has gone way overboard with male trees [rather than female trees] and it's all because of tidiness," Ogren says. "No one wants the flowers, the fruit, the seeds that the female trees produce. Landscapers and nurseries have probably been using male trees longer than any of us ever realized. If you want to get away from pollen, you have to ask about female trees."

Any tree that never produces fruit or seed is almost certainly a male -- and certainly a pollen producer, Ogren adds. Also, if you see words like "seedless" or "fruitless" in a plant's description, it means it's a male -- and should be avoided.

To help you get your yard in shape this spring -- without too much suffering -- we've put together these tips you can use to avoid seasonal allergies.

21 Tips for Gardening With Allergies

All that flowers... 

1. A pot of petunias isn't likely to trigger allergies -- but too much of any flower can be a problem. A bank of bleeding hearts or a wisteria bush outside a bedroom window is not a good idea. Prepare for a pollen blast when you open the windows.

2. Sunflowers, daisies, and chrysanthemums have their dark side -- they're all related to ragweed. If you're partial to sunflowers, look for hypoallergenic sunflower seeds. The plants that come from them won't produce pollen. As for mums and daisies, you'll have to keep them to a minimum.

3. Goldenrod brings pretty yellow color into a garden, but it can trigger an allergic reaction (though milder than the one from ragweed). For a splash of yellow, try allergy-innocent snapdragons or zinnias.

4. Pick up cut flowers on your way home. Most are cultivated to be pollen-free. But flowers from your garden should stay outside. Bring them into your warm, dry home, and their pollen production ramps up.

5. Herbs can cause an allergic reaction. Chamomile -- both the pollen and the brewed leaves -- can trouble an allergy sufferer. Amaranth (pigweed) has a pretty show of flowers, but it is related to tumbleweed -- and both are big pollen producers. If you're making amaranth flour, there's a possibility of allergic reaction to it as well.

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