Now you may or may not recall that I touched upon the bane of many garden lovers (or not), hay fever, this time last year – I may have been complaining. Well it’s that time again and as I sniffle and sneeze and rub at my eyes as I write this I thought it might be timely to talk about it and other allergies.
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is caused by grass pollens blowing in on the wind. Your nose is basically a filter, trapping particles in the hairs and mucus (yes, yuck) inside your nostrils. Some people are allergic to these tiny particles – the body thinking they may be harmful reacts, resulting in all those annoying symptoms we know – itchy eyes, runny nose, headaches and sneezing.
Hay fever can actually occur at any time of year and be triggered by dust mites, animal hair and various other ‘triggers’ but spring is usually the time when there are elevated levels of pollen in the air. Various medications from your doctor or pharmacist are available, but simple things like keeping windows and doors closed can help. Another tip is to stay indoors on ‘high pollen’ days; but unless you suffer severely I like to keep this as a last resort.
Flowering trees are often blamed for hay fever, I myself always blame them, but really it is only the grass pollens that cause most of the problems. Trees however can contribute to other allergies, some of them quite severely. Plane Trees (Platanus xhispanica) have been linked to allergic reactions with the pollen and ‘hairs’ from their leaves triggering all kinds of allergies in early spring when they shed. Other trees such as euphorbias whose milky sap can cause irritation and the toxic Rhus (Toxicodendron succedaneum) should all be removed by a tree expert. The Silky-oak (Grevillea robusta) is another that can cause allergies and some, like the oleander (Nerium oleander), are poisonous but can still be correctly managed in the garden.
If you do have a tree you suspect might be causing an allergic reaction have an arborist check it out and remove it. Always wear gloves when pruning anything, but to be on the safe side with high-allergy trees and shrubs, be careful and get a tree expert in to remove it for you.