Allergies can put a serious crimp in gardening: A runny nose, itchy eyes, or a wheezing and persistent cough can drive allergy sufferers indoors during the growing season.
But there are many things you can do to reduce those irritations and remain a dedicated gardener.
Start by determining what's causing your allergies. See an allergist for tests to define the problem. Then you can garden smarter by avoiding plants that give off harmful pollen, and working only when fewer spores are in the air.
An estimated 50 million Americans have seasonal allergy problems, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The cause is pollen from plants, trees, grasses, weeds and mold spores.
Peak season usually is March through October, but that varies by region. Tree pollen can be a problem for allergy sufferers as early as January in the South.
The degree of distress ranges from annoying to life threatening.
"For most individuals, the gardening allergies do, in fact, affect their quality of life, especially during the seasons," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. "However, some folks with allergic asthma may experience a flare or exacerbation of their respiratory symptoms that may become more serious, and necessitates them to refrain from or curtail gardening activities."