Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pine Pollen and Seasonal Allergies by the Medical Experts: Nip Them in the Bud!

Pinus produce approximately 2.5 to 5 pounds
of pollen in a two-to-four-week period.
The peak of Piedmont pollen season is expected mid-April[6].

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/30/3732286/ask-a-scientist-why-is-there-so.html#storylink=cpy
By J.S. Corser (FHGC)
Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener 
 
Billows of yellow pine pollen give Durham County allergy-suffering gardeners plenty of reason to cry, “April is the cruelest month”[1]. The ubiquitous pine powder coats everything in its flight path with a fine yellow film. Even if you don’t suffer allergic rhinitis, watering eyes or a scratchy throat, the North Carolina pine pollen season at a minimum forces extra trips through Autobell or Bunkey’s Car Wash if there’s long stretches without rain.
 
The pine tree is the official North Carolina state tree, designated in 1963. So what’s a Durham gardener to do in hopes of minimizing allergy symptoms from approximately 44 different species of Pinus found in the Tar Heel State[2]? Here are some helpful tips from the Mayo Clinic and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.
 
Reduce Exposure to Allergy Triggers
To reduce your exposure to the things which trigger your allergy signs and symptoms (allergens)[3][4]: 
  • Limit your gardening days to cool or cloudy days, and in the later afternoon or evening when pollen concentration in the air is generally lower. 
  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days — the best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
  • When working outdoors, wear a NIOSH-approved face mask, hat, glasses, gloves and a long-sleeve shirt to reduce skin and nose contact with pollen.
  • Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
  • Immediately shower and change your clothes when you go back indoors and make sure to wash your hair to remove allergens trapped there.
  • Don't hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
  • Wear a dust mask if you do outside chores.
Extra Steps when Pollen Counts are High
Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there's a lot of pollen in the air. These steps can help you reduce your exposure[3][4]:
  • Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the Internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
  • If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.       
  • Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
Keep Indoor Air Clean
There's no miracle product that can eliminate all allergens from the air in your home, but these suggestions may help[3][4]:
  • Use air conditioning in the house and cars instead of opening windows.
  • With forced air heating or air conditioning, use high-efficiency filters and follow regular maintenance schedules.
  • Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
  • Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in bedrooms.
  • Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter

Selective Gardening
 
A more radical approach to managing allergens is selective planting of your landscape and garden altogether. (This will not eliminate your neighbors’ pollen blowing over the property line, but you will not contribute additional pollen volume to your own area.)
 
Many plants including several grasses, trees, and bushes reproduce by releasing billions of tiny pollen grains into the wind during the spring, summer and fall months. These are the types of plants to avoid in the garden. Instead, consider plants that rely on insects for cross-pollination, which are known to have pollen grains that are much heavier and don’t travel through the air quite as easily[4].
 
Cross-pollinating plants come in an array of several brightly colored flowers, fruit trees and shrubs. If you need help identifying which species best suit your lot conditions (Durham County hardiness zone 7b, your solar path, wind patterns, residential utility lines, etc.), a local commercial nursery expert or the NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener office can help you with lots of information and ideas.
 
Common Pollen-Generating Plants[4]       
  • Grasses - Bermuda, Fescue, Johnson, June, Orchard, Perennial Rye, Redtop, Salt Grass, Sweet Vernal, Timothy.
  • Shrubs - Cypress, Juniper.
  • Trees - Alder, Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Box Elder, Cedar, Cottonwood, Elm, Hickory, Maple, Mulberry, Oak, Olive, Palm, Pecan, Pine, Poplar, Sycamore, Walnut, Willow.
  • Weeds - Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac, Cocklebur, Pigweed, Ragweed, Russian Thistle, Sagebrush
 
Cross-Pollinating Plants[4]
  • Flowering Plants - Begonia, Cactus, Chenille, Clematis, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Geranium, Hosta, Impatiens, Iris, Lily, Pansy, Periwinkle, Petunia, Phlox, Fose, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Thrift, Tulip, Verbena, zinnia.
  • Grasses - St. Augustine
  • Shrubs - Azalea, Boxwood, English Yew, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Viburnum.
  • Trees - Apple, Cherry, Chinese Fan Palm, Fern Pine, Dogwood, English Holly, Hardy Rubber Tree, Magnolia, Pear, Plum, Red Maple.
 
Allergy Relief with Honey?
 
For passionate gardeners who resign themselves to popping allergy medication or even enduring seasonal discomfort as a part of tending to their outdoor horticulture havens, can basic honey work as an natural alternative in lessening seasonal allergy symptoms? Here are answers from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.[5]
 
"Probably not. Honey has been anecdotally reported to lessen symptoms in people with seasonal allergies. But these results haven't been consistently duplicated in clinical studies. Still the idea isn't so far-fetched. Honey has been studied as a cough suppressant and may have anti-inflammatory effects. It can contain traces of flower pollen — an allergen. And one treatment for allergies is repeated exposure to small amounts of allergens.
 
For now, however, it appears that honey may just be a sweet placebo. But don't let that stop you from using it in food and beverages. Just don't give honey to children younger than 1 year because of the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning."
 
References:
 
1. “The Waste Land.” (1922). T.S. Elliot. Criterion Magazine. London.
2. Pine. NC Cooperative Extension: Searchable Database of Plants. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/search/2/?q=pine
3. “Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud. Relieve seasonal allergies with these tried-and-true techniques.” The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/in-depth/seasonal-allergies/art-20048343
4. “Gardening with allergies.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=19&cont=470
5. “Can honey lessen seasonal allergy symptoms?” Brent A. Bauer, M.D. The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/expert-answers/honey-for-allergies/faq-20057927
6. "Ask a Scientist: Why is there so much pine pollen in the air?" (March 30, 2014). The News & Observer. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/30/3732286/ask-a-scientist-why-is-there-so.html

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