For as many as 24 million Americans, allergies are a common source of health trouble. Allergies don’t just mean minor sneezing now and then; they can often result in long days and nights of all-out discomfort and misery. Some people may even suffer serious consequences from severe allergies to pollen. Moreover, there is now considerable data that shows a powerful direct link between allergies and asthma, which can sometimes worsen into a life-threatening condition if left untreated.
Plant Pollen & Allergies
Most seasonal allergies could be blamed on the increased length and intensity of exposure to high pollen counts from trees, flowers, and grass in the recent years.
Researchers suggest that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the environment, which lead to slightly higher temperatures, are making plants grow vigorously. As a result, they produce more pollen. Longer periods of warm temperatures mean that plants produce pollen for a longer time. A higher pollen count and prolonged exposure is creating an allergy response even in people who would otherwise tolerate pollen exposure in low to moderate quantities.
Pollen is a powdery substance that comes from plants. The most common pollen allergy triggers are grass and weeds. If you have seasonal allergies, you know your condition flares up at a certain time of year. Trigger allergies are usually connected to spring because many plants are blooming. During this time of year, there is more pollen in the air than other seasons.
However, Florida’s warm weather means plants are blooming pretty much throughout the year. Your seasonal allergies in Florida are less “seasonal” and more year-round. Pollen can cause sinus conditions, rashes, fatigue, headaches, irritability, and a number of other serious health problems that impact you quality of life.
Now obviously, the best preventive treatment for allergy symptoms is to avoid whatever common allergy trigger is causing them. But when your city or state park department plants trees and shrubs for shade without realizing their allergen potential, they can end up causing you a lot of grief. Many homeowners also unknowingly make poor choices by choosing allergy-causing indoor plants and lawn grass.
Plants that Can Trigger Your Allergies
Ragweed is hands-down the biggest cause of seasonal allergies in Florida. It thrives on neglected land; you will rarely find ragweeds on land still untouched by human hands. They grow only where people have disturbed the natural vegetation and soil, and then failed to take care of it.
Ragweeds are common in waste dump areas and burned-out soils, or wherever the ecosystem is out of whack. The greenish-yellow flowers on one single ragweed plant can produce one billion pollen grains, which can travel up to 700 miles by a strong wind.
Alder trees grow incredibly fast when given enough moisture. These huge shade trees are easy to identify thanks to the brown-colored cones that dangle from bare purple-brown twigs with orange markings. These trees shed highly allergenic pollen.
In order to stabilize a beach’s shoreline, beachgrass is sometimes planted all around it. Once this grass is established, it crowds out the less aggressive native flora and produces allergens.
Artemisia is considered a terrific ornamental plant by Florida homeowners, but many don’t know that it’s a close relative of ragweed. Some have a strong allergic reaction to the abundant pollen and odor produced by these shrubs.
Birch trees are a common element of many landscaping projects. There are several different species of birch which bloom at a different times. All of them shed highly allergic pollen. Interestingly, if you’re allergic to birch pollen, you are also likely to be allergic to foods like strawberries, peaches, kiwi, and melons.
An ornamental shade tree that’s characterized by its smooth gray bark and heart-shaped leaves. If it is planted in your landscape, you should have it removed ASAP as it can cause allergic rhinitis.
Bottlebrush shrubs or trees are a gardener’s first choice if their goal is to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. They have stunning bright red clusters of flowers that look like baby-bottle brushes, hence the name. Bottlebrush pollen doesn’t travel far in the air, but it can be highly allergic when breathed in or with skin contact.
People who are allergic to bottlebrush should not bring its flowers inside their home. It’s a really poisonous plant, so don’t even plant it next to your driveway, as the pollen can fall on your car.
Spurge nettle is a perennial plant also known as tread-softly or bull-nettle. It’s covered with tiny, stinging hairs and can grow up to 3 feet tall. Touching the “hairs” covering the plant can cause a stinging sensation and painful rashes that last up to an hour.
Cypress is an evergreen tree with short, needle-like leaves. They are used in landscaping all across Florida because of their ability to thrive in warm temperatures. They also shed enormous amounts of allergenic pollen for about 6–7 months of the year. Reaction to cypress pollen is almost always severe and takes the immune system a while to recover.
Bermuda grass is one of the toughest lawn grasses that flowers even when it is short. It also produces plenty of allergenic pollen. To reduce the pollen production, it’s recommended to keep the grass well-watered, fertilized, and mowed low and often. If you must plant Bermuda grass, go with a hybrid that is pollen-free.
A common forage grass in the southern and eastern United States, orchard grass is one of the worst allergy grasses. If used, it should be pastured or cut early in the pollen season as a hay crop.
Homeowners plant rubber trees both indoors and outdoors. It’s considered a good choice for the Florida weather. However, the sap and the pollen are allergenic for some people and might cause a burning sensation, itching, rashes, and swelling.
Walnut Tree (Black Walnut, English Walnut, Butternut, etc.)
All walnut trees produce airborne pollen and allergens, but some tend to be worse than others, like the California black walnut tree. People have also reported that the odor of rotting husks surrounding the nuts triggers their allergies. In fact, the odor allergy is far more serious than the pollen allergy and can wreak havoc on immune systems.
Juniper trees are easy to grow and they can tolerate the hottest temperatures, making them popular for landscaping in Florida. Juniper berries are used to make natural decongestants, as diuretics, and to flavor gin as well. But in many areas of the country, juniper is the primary cause of hay fever and allergic asthma episodes. Juniper pollen can irritate the skin and cause severe inhalant allergy and contact dermatitis.
The evergreen primrose trees bear beautiful purple flowers, which are followed by seed-pods filled with tiny, hair-like fibers. You may feel tempted to open one of these pods – don’t. It can spread the itchy fibers to your eyes, neck, face, and hands and produce severe contact-irritation. These trees can grow 20 feet wide and 30 feet tall so it’s natural to think that they would make great shade trees. Unfortunately, this is a big mistake, especially if they are planted around schools and hospitals.
Ryegrass comes in several varieties – perennial, hybrid, Italian, and more. Ryegrass pollen is a widespread, common, and often severe allergen in all parts of the US, including Florida. Taking this into account, most of this pollen doesn’t come from lawns; ryegrass must be over a foot tall before it can produce pollen. Almost all of the allergens come from ryegrass plants grown in pastures as forage crops or escaped as weeds.
Club Moss/Running Moss
Club moss is no doubt a charming indoor plant; many put it in hanging baskets around their home. These are not flowering plants so they don’t produce pollen. They do, however, produce an enormous number of spores. An allergic response to these spores is common and symptoms can be unusually severe, including a serious rash and hay fever. If you have a mold allergy, you’re likely to be allergic to club moss as well, but you can do an allergy test to be sure.
Olive trees are easy to transplant, so many of them have been moved into city landscapes as urban scrawl has taken over. However, olive blossoms can cause severe allergic reactions. Its pollen is very light and buoyant, making it easy to become airborne. Olive pollen can also trigger asthma.
While it’s popular for being sun-loving and drought-tolerant, zoysia grass is one of the worst offenders for pollen allergies. It’s recommended to keep this grass cut short at all times to minimize flowering and pollen production.
Bahia Grass/Dallis Grass
This perennial grass grows incredibly fast, which is why it’s commonly used for hay crops and pastures. It’s not uncommon for it to escape cultivation, though, and become crabgrass-like weeds in yards. No matter how short you cut bahia grass, it will still produce large amounts of weed pollens.
Devil’s Backbone/Redbird Cactus
A beautiful succulent plant that is highly valued for its unique appearance and ability to attract hummingbirds. On the other hand, it produces allergenic sap and pollen that can cause serious skin rashes.
This is one of the worst grasses when it comes to causing allergic reactions, and yet it remains a common pasture grass. Timothy grass grows 2–4 feet tall with flat leaves and spike-shaped flower clusters. You can prevent its pollen from shedding by cutting the first hay crop.
Also known as Kentucky bluegrass, this is another popular lawn grass option in Florida. If you have bluegrass in your lawn, make sure it is mowed regularly and low to prevent flowering otherwise it can release allergenic pollen.
With more than 400 species worldwide, oaks play an important role in landscaping and the timber industry. These trees are pollinated by the wind, which carries enormous amounts of pollen that induce allergy symptoms. In some cities, landscape areas where several oak trees are planted are the most common cause of frequent allergic attacks in the nearby population. Oak pollen can also trigger asthma attacks.
Pampas grass is quite common throughout Florida, especially Brevard County. It grows in large clumps and can actually reach a height of 8–10 feet. It can also cause allergies. The symptoms of a pampas grass allergy are like those of any other allergic reaction: watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and trouble breathing (in some cases).
Buttercup plants produce bright yellow flowers, which can help you create a masterpiece garden. But the plants are also poisonous; when the leaves are bruised or crushed, they release a compound called ranunculin, which then forms a toxic oil. Contact with this oil causes severe dermatitis. If you’ve touched the oil, you may experience symptoms such as itching, burning, blisters, and rashes within an hour of contact.
There are several species of elm trees, and some of them have been popular among landscape designers for centuries. Their wood tends to be durable, strong, and resistant to rot and weather, even when submerged in water for long periods. In other words, they are perfect for Florida weather. Except that they produce allergenic pollen in early spring and throughout summer.
How to Tell If You Are Allergic to a Plant?
Plant allergies in general refer to an allergic reaction to a certain plant’s pollen. You may also know pollen allergy as “hay fever” or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Tree pollen is the first pollen to occur every year in Florida. It’s responsible for most spring allergy symptoms. It also usually overlaps with grass pollen in the summer and spring.
If you are allergic to plants (or pollen, to be more precise), you’ll only show symptoms when the pollens you’re allergic to are floating about in the air. Your symptoms may include:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Runny nose
- Sinus pressure, which may cause facial pain
- Itchy eyes, nose, mouth, and ears
- Watery eyes
- Swelling around the eyes
- Sore throat
- An increase in the frequency of asthma attacks
- A decreased sense of smell of taste
- Swollen, bluish skin under your eyes/ bags under eyes
If you have asthma and pollen seems to make your condition worse, you may have allergic asthma. Furthermore, you may not realize it, but if you are displaying symptoms of an allergic reaction in your throat or mouth when you eat certain nuts, vegetables, or fruits, it could also be related to a pollen allergy.
This condition is known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). It happens because some weed, grass, or tree pollen is similar to the protein in some nuts, vegetables, or fruits. Your immune system is unable to tell the difference between the two. Eating these foods may cause your throat, tongue, lips, and mouth to swell or itch. If you think you have OAS, consult with an ENT specialist or allergist.
Looking for Sustainable Allergy Relief? We Are Here to Help
At Florida Sinus & Snoring Specialists, we believe your life is worth a lot more than just struggling with allergies year after year. The good news is that lasting relief from your seasonal or chronic allergies is easier than you might think. We have helped thousands of people get rid of their allergy issues so they can regain control of their life and get back to doing things they love.
Allergies should not keep you from enjoying the beautiful outdoors in Florida. Our board-certified medical team, led by the renowned allergy specialist Dr. Mandel, is trained and experienced in testing, diagnosing, and treating all kinds of allergies. It’s time to stop relying on temporary, over-the-counter remedies. Get ready to book an appointment today. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call at 954-983-1211 or contact us online.