texas sunflowers in garden
September 8, 2017
Allergy Tips

Lawn care is still possible with allergies: here's how

Gardening is wonderful thing to do...especially in Texas where we have a great climate for keeping a beautiful garden all year round. But sometimes lawn care can be as uncomfortable as it is rewarding. Hot weather, knee pain, pricks from thorns, and the development of the ever-popular farmer’s tan are all risks for garden enthusiasts.

Things get even worse for gardeners when they’re also part of the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies. With gardening being an excellent hobby for kids, they too can be prone to suffering from allergies. It’s no surprise that getting stuffy is a common side effect of gardening, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple things you can do to alleviate your symptoms so that gardening can be enjoyable...even in 100-degree heat.

How can you tell if you have allergies?

First, let’s determine if you’re a person who suffers from a ragweed and/or grass allergy. One of the most common questions we hear is “Do I have a cold or allergies?” One way of telling the difference is the length of time you suffer from your symptoms. A cold will rarely last over 10 days, so if you’re suffering from a “cold” the whole summer, it’s safe to say that it is likely allergy symptoms and not a cold.

Choose the right times to avoid your ragweed or grass allergy

Pollen gets the worst around mid-morning when the sun starts to peak. By moving your gardening/mowing time to early morning or late afternoon, you’ll avoid the highest amount of pollen in the day. Some days are worse than others  so that no matter what time you choose, you may be better off staying inside. Learn what days are the worst by checking your local pollen count.

Protect yourself from your allergies

It can feel goofy to dress up to protect yourself from plants, but it’s important not only for your skin but also your symptoms. Simply wearing a hat can be extremely useful.  By wearing a hat, you’re able to prevent pollen from collecting in your hair and exposing you to allergens all throughout the day.

Long sleeves and pants will not only protect your skin from the sun but also pollen that irritates your allergies. Spending time around grass or ragweed that you’re allergic to can cause rashes and hives to breakout on your skin.  By limiting direct exposure to these plants and grasses, you decrease the possibility of having these skin reactions.

One method to filter pollen from entering your nose or mouth is by covering your face. You don’t need to go spend money and get an N95 mask, although it’s the most effective. A simple bandana tied around face can work wonders for your allergies. At first you may feel like a gardening cowboy or cowgirl, but being able to breathe will make it well worth it.

Also, if you know that you’re going to be doing a good amount of lawn maintenance, take an antihistamine before you go outside. This will prepare your immune system to battle your allergies early.

Mowing with a grass allergy

The obvious answer to avoid symptoms from grass allergies is to delegate the responsibility of mowing elsewhere (child, lawn service, spouse, etc.)... your husband or wife can thank me later.  But if you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for another way, whether it be necessity or lawncare is something you truly enjoy.  The first thing to do is make sure you’re following the same methods covered in the previous sections.

The more consistently you mow, the less symptoms you will feel from your grass allergies. Keeping grass around 2 inches tall will help keep the grass from flowering and pollinating.  Keep grass around 2-3” tall rather than 4-6” tall.  

Something else that will be helpful in the long-run is a bag for your mower. It collects grass that is normally strewn across the yard which is then picked up by the wind.

And finally, some additional quick and easy ways to reduce allergy symptoms include:

  • Showering and changing clothes immediately after being outside. Get that pollen off of you!
  • Wash any dogs or indoor/outdoor animals once a week as pollen can stick to their fur
  • Keep compost bins away from your gardening area. Though great for fertilizer, these can collect mold which is a whole other allergen to worry about.
  • Rake leaves often.  Fallen leaves are breeding grounds for mold as well as collecting pollen.
  • Consider getting plants that rely on insect pollination instead of wind.  In general, flowers that are brightly-colored, with large petals and fragrant are typically pollinated by insects rather than wind.  Although, full disclaimer, this wouldn’t be a good idea if anyone in your family has a bee allergy.
  • Regularly do nasal saline rinses. This is like giving your nasal passage a bath that cleans out all of that pollen stuck to it.  I personally prefer the squirt bottles, such as NeilMed, as they are much more user-friendly.

If these tips aren’t enough to get you feeling better or if you’re tired of fighting allergies every summer, visit your local allergy clinic and ask if immunotherapy would be right for you. This will build a tolerance to ALL of your allergies and get you feeling better no matter the season.