Houseplants and Allergies: Best Choices

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Houseplants and Allergies: Best and Worst Choices

 

Can allergy sufferers have houseplants? Most allergy sufferers know to avoid pollens and other plant components. But does that mean they need to avoid all indoor greenery? Definitely not!

Experts advise that houseplants benefit us in many ways. In fact, science indicates that a house hosting certain plants benefits from better air quality.

So it would stand to reason that plants offering air-purifying qualities would be especially helpful to allergy sufferers.

And in fact, some plants do provide such assistance with allergies. But, not all plants prove helpful to people with allergies. Some actually create more problems.

If someone in your home suffers allergies, it’s important to understand the relationship between houseplants and allergies.

Beneficial houseplants and allergies

 

A study by NASA in 1980 clearly showed the air-purifying effects of certain plants. These particular plants absorb toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene. In fact, homes with enough houseplants show results as high as 60% fewer airborne microbes such as mold and bacteria. That alone makes them a great asset to our indoor environments.

These and other toxins enter our homes with products we use everyday such as detergents, wood products, and paint. Plants offer a completely healthy and natural way to filter a high percentage of these toxins from our homes. And they do so without harm to plants or us.

 

The allergy component

 

What is an allergy?

Simply put, an allergy is a reaction by your immune system to a substance that doesn’t bother most people. If a persona has allergies, they often are sensitive to more than one substance. Common things that cause reactions are

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander (most pet allergies are to the dander, not the hair)
  • Food (dairy and nuts are common, others exist, too)
  • Insect stings
  • Medicines

The immune system is our body’s defense system. It works to fight germs. However, sometimes it reacts to a substance that is not harmful, creating a sort of false alarm. Scientists believe that a combination of genes and environment play a role.

This overreactive response by the immune system often triggers irritating symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, itching, swelling, or a rash. It might also cause asthma. While some symptoms are minor and more irritating than dangerous, a severe reaction might cause anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening.

 

Plant allergies

Experts indicate that our world hosts hundreds of plant allergens capable of causing an allergic reaction. They may be triggered via inhalation or on contact. With so much variety in types of allergens, diagnosing the exact ones often difficult. Adding to the challenge, often several allergens are at play at one time.

 

Note: Plant allergies are also described as allergic rhinitis or hay fever.

Allergic reactions to plants – the symptoms

The most common symptoms when it comes to plant allergies are:

  • Irritated, red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Puffiness or darkness under the eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Tiredness

 

Many plant allergies are airborne, meaning the person does not need to actually touch the plant to cause the reaction. Some are by direct contact, rather than airborne. For other plants, the reaction begins when the person comes in contact with a liquid from the leaves, stem, or fruit from the plant. Symptoms might show as itching, contact dermatitis, eczema, hives, skin lesions, or photogermatosis.

 

Not a plant allergy?

You might mistake a mold allergy, thinking it to be an allergy to the plant itself. Mold grows easily in houseplant soil. And when it’s present, it might cause an allergic reaction.

Prevent mold on your plants with simple steps.

Molds like a wet, dark environment with less air circulation. Understanding that, we can learn to avoid growing mold on our plants.

Soggy plants often suffer, but they also provide a harbor for mold. While they might tolerate the occasional overwatering, it’s best to keep the watering more frequent with less amounts each time. Use pots and soil mixes that ensure proper drainage. Your plants will thank you, too.

To prevent mold:

  • Avoid overwatering plants.
  • Ensure sufficient ventilation.
  • Provide ample sunlight, natural or with sunlamps.
  • Clear dropped and dying leaves and other debris from the soil. Keep it clean.
  • Check for mold on the plant leaves and in the potting mix. Take steps to eliminate it as soon as you spot it.

 

When you find mold, eliminate it with these steps.

 

Steps to take to get rid of mold on your houseplants.

  1. Gently wipe the leaves using a damp paper towel. Make sure you support the leaves from the underside and use a gentle touch to avoid harming the plant.  Use a clean piece of paper towel for each leaf to avoid spreading the mold from one place to another.
  2. After removing all the mold, spray the plant with a fungicide. I recommend a  such as affiliate link
  3. To remove mold from the soil, gently remove the top layer of soil. Make sure you get all of the mold. If it seems to be infected quite deep, it’s best to repot the plant in a clean planter with fresh potting soil. 
  4. Replace the potting mix you’ve removed. Be sure to use fresh, sterile potting soil.

 

Remember to keep these in mind to prevent mold from returning.

  • Provide plants the appropriate amount of sunlight.
  • Water your plants only when they need it. Give only as much water as they need. 
    • For plants that require moist soil, let the top layer dry before watering again. The soil below stays moist for some time even after the top layer dries. 
    • With plants that tolerate drier conditions, allow the soil to dry down to a depth of around two inches before rewatering.
  • Keep your plants in areas that provide good ventilation.
  • Promptly remove dead leaves, blossoms, and other material from planters.
  • Lightly sprinkle baking soda, cinnamon, or apple cider vinegar on the soil for natural mold prevention.

By providing the right conditions and care for your houseplants, you ensure that they remain healthy and mold-free. Prevention is always better than intervention. 

The worst indoor plants for allergy sufferers

Some plants are known to cause skin reactions when touched by allergy prone people. These include:

  • Chrysanthemums
  • Weeping figs
  • Orchids
  • Marigolds

While many cases show mild symptoms, they occasionally lead to more serious including swelling around the eyes and mouth or even anaphylactic shock.

Other Noteworthy:

  • African Violets are well-known for holding dust particles, making them less than ideal for those with allergies. If you must keep these delightful flowering houseplants, keep them very clean at all times.
  • Many find palm plants offer a safe decorative solution. However, be aware that male palms produce large quantities of pollen.
  • Bonsai trees cause symptoms just as the larger outdoor versions. If you are sensitive to a variety such as cedar, avoid keeping the Bonsai version in your home.
  • Ferns create a dilemma for allergy sufferers. These plants, particularly the Boston Fern, are among the best air-purifiers known. However, they require damp soil to thrive, making them an ideal host for mold. Additionally, some require a great deal of cleaning to keep them dust and mold-free. If you are willing to provide the extra care, you will enjoy their air cleaning benefits!

 

Best Choices for allergy-friendly indoor plants

Certain plants help relieve allergies, rather than cause them. Some help by acting as a natural humidifier, while others remove formaldehyde and reduce benzene levels, both of which trigger allergies. These include:

  • Golden Pothos
  • Philodendron
  • Areca Palm
  • Kentia Palm
  • Lady Palm
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Dracaena
  • Peace lily
  • Marginata
  • Mother-in-laws tongue

3 top tips for introducing plants and minimizing allergic reactions

  1. Add one plant at a time to your home. Allow sufficient time to ensure no reaction before adding another plant. Once you feel certain the plant is safe, only then consider adding a different type.
  2. We all love those flowering plants. And they are largely safe. Just make sure the flowers have short stamens and little pollen. This helps keep those pollen allergies in check.
  3. When possible, select plants with smooth leaves. Textured leaves provide a place for dust and dirt to accumulate, often increasing allergens. Smooth leaves that don’t trap allergens easily

 

Creating a plan to integrate houseplants and allergies in your home often creates challenges. But choosing plants carefully brings many benefits to the home. Enjoy a home filled with houseplants, whether you suffer from allergies or not.

 

Read More

What houseplants help with allergies?

Houseplant Problem Solver

12 Air-Purifying Houseplants

Boston Fern Plant Care

Are Terrariums Easy to Care For?

 

 

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Great gift idea!

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