Allergies to House Plants

By A Reis

Having ornamental plants is a popular choice to add colour and variety to your house or work place, but for some people just being in close proximity to plants is enough to trigger an allergic reaction.

Unfortunately, this is an area poorly researched and, in many cases, the actual allergen has not been identified yet. Most studies concentrate on occupational allergy, such as in gardeners, greenhouse workers and florists, but with the widespread use of plants in many public places, the exposure to allergens reaches many more.

Do plants prevent or cause allergies?

The answer may be both, depending on the allergy.

In addition to their decorative aspect, in 1989 NASA published a study that demonstrated that plants are capable of a much more important function than just their ornamental status. Certain plants can eliminate toxins present in the air, which make them exceptional air cleaners providing a much better atmosphere inside the house.

It was shown that plants absorb these substances through the leaves, as well as releasing moisture which reduces airborne toxins. This included pet dander and dust mites, as well as many other allergens. The study suggested the use of such plants as an inexpensive means of providing clean air indoors, particularly public places.

If you suffer from allergies, after reading this report, you would think that having plants in your house can potentially reduce the incidence of allergens and eliminate any symptoms. This is not the full story however, as many plants operate at the other end of the scale by triggering an allergic reaction, making life very difficult for those that have to cope with this condition.

If you start experiencing certain symptoms connected with your allergy suddenly after acquiring a new plant, unfortunately it may mean a plant allergen is the culprit.

Plant allergens

There are hundreds of different plant allergens that can cause a reaction, either by contact or inhalation. It is estimated that over 500 substances can cause such reaction from one plant family alone. These allergens vary immensely in their composition and diagnosis is sometimes difficult due to lack of tests specific for each one. In addition, exposure to more than one allergen simultaneously further complicates diagnosis.

Traditionally, classification of allergens is done based on botanical criteria of the correspondent plant, but this does not allow doctors to predict cross-reactivity to advise patients about what other plants have the same allergen and therefore should be avoided. Recently however, a classification based on the allergen’s chemical structure has been proposed which, if accepted, would facilitate finding identical allergens present in different plants but likely to cause the same reaction.

Most common plants allergens

According to scientific research and medical cases, ornamental plants most likely to trigger an allergic reaction include:

•       Chrysanthenum (Compositae family)

•      Tulips, hyacinths, lilies, crocuses (Liliaceae family)

•      Roses (Rosaceae family)

•      Weeping fig (Moraceae family)

•      Primulas (Primulaceae family)

•      Stephanotis floribunda (Apocynaceae family)

•      Spider plant and snake plant (Asparagaceae family)

•      Cymbidium and oncidium orchids (Orchydaceae family)

•      Marigold, dahlia and sneezeweed (Asteraceae family)

•      Tradescantia (Commelinaceae family)

•      Ginkgo (Ginkgoaceae family)

•      Silk oak (Proteaceae family)

What are the symptoms caused by plant allergens?

Obviously, symptoms depend on the way you get into contact with the allergen. You can either enter in direct contact with the allergen by touching the plant, which will cause various skin conditions; or indirectly, by inhaling airborne allergens, which will cause respiratory problems.

Direct contact with allergen causes skin reactions

Some plants secrete liquid from the fruit, leaves and stem, which can be potentially trigger an allergic reaction. If you touch the offending plants, your skin gets in contact with these substances and may cause itching, eczema, skin lesions, contact dermatitis, urticaria or even photodermatosis. In extreme cases, it may even result in swelling in the face, usually around the eyes or mouth (angiooedema) or anaphylatic shock.

Examples of plants that can cause a skin reaction include chrysanthemum, orchids, marigold and weeping ficus.

Indirect contact with allergen causes respiratory reactions

Plants can cause allergic reactions by other means other than just by contact. Inhaling airborne allergens can result in runny nose and itchy eyes (rhinoconjuntivitis) and allergic rhinitis, as well as lung inflammation, dyspneia or even asthma.

This type of allergy can be difficult to diagnose, as contact is not necessary and it may take some time for enough allergens to accumulate in the air to cause a reaction. Potentially, any ornamental plants that produce large amounts of pollen can cause an allergic reaction, but pollen is not the only airborne allergen.

How to avoid or reduce plant allergies?

•      Chose plants with flowers with little pollen and short stamens

•      Keep plants at floor level, to reduce area contaminated with potential allergens

•      Add one plant at a time to your house, to ensure that no allergies develop

•      Chose plants with smooth leaves, as fuzzy leaves can trap allergens easily

•      Examples of low allergy plants include cactus, begonia, nasturtium, peperomia and croton

•      Ensure your plants are always clear of any dust which can harbour airborne allergens

•      Spray the leaves with water to reduce the risk of airborne allergens


In conclusion, mostly due to lack of adequate testing, allergies caused by common house plants tend to be misdiagnosed and misunderstood. However, this can cause from mild skin irritation to serious allergic conditions that require medical attention. Further research is required to identify the chemical nature and mechanism of action of many still unknown allergens, which will help in developing new tests to facilitate diagnosis. Furthermore, a better understanding of allergens and their chemical structure would permit doctors to advise their patients about what other plants to avoid to reduce the incidence of allergic reactions.


I will keep this article in mind as my sister gets sever allergies. I will try your suggestions by first presenting her with some nasturtium and she how she goes. Wish me luck

June 8th, 2014 | 8:35 pm

blu e cig Allergies to House Plants » Beyond Allergy

July 11th, 2014 | 11:42 pm

Hi mates, how is all, and what you desire to say regarding this paragraph, in my view its in fact remarkable designed for me.

October 9th, 2014 | 4:11 pm

Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites
I stumbleupon every day. It’s always interesting to read content from other authors and practice a little something from other

November 4th, 2014 | 11:55 am

He is watching you enjoy that plate and saying YUM,too!

November 12th, 2014 | 2:04 pm

Lower flow levels could be triggered by as well a lot stress, a poor diet, bad way of life choices or even a lack of vitamins or nutrients.

November 15th, 2014 | 12:37 pm

I recently started making my own stock and really love using fresh, real ingredients so I can skip the commercially produced kind.

November 18th, 2014 | 6:15 pm

Good day! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Many thanks
shop louis vuitton 2014 collection
[url=]shop louis vuitton 2014 collection[/url]

December 4th, 2014 | 1:37 am

Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Many thanks
jordan official website shoes

March 6th, 2015 | 3:40 pm

But despite playing politics, and even if one takes a realist’s view of things, the PM got some things really wrong. His ploy, as it were,Michael Kors Outlet, might have been to build more support for an eventual military action (if it comes to that). However, by failing to identity any clear targets or outlining what are the ‘non-negotiable’ aspects, he has made his eventual task even more difficult. The PM or anyone else in his position does not need any lofty moral reason to fight the menace of terrorism. The motivation of staying in active power politics should be enough ― and I feel there is nothing wrong with that.

March 30th, 2015 | 7:28 pm

But Sunday also gives visitors a final opportunity to see “The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters From the Art Institute of Chicago,Michael Kors Watches,” whose artists include, among other fine examples, Joan Miró, Salvador Dali and Marc Chagall. Chagall’s 1938 painting, White Crucifixion,Michael Kors Outlet, is by itself worth a separate study. It’s telling that Chagall, a Russian-born Jewish artist,Michael Kors Outlet, painted it in the same year as Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” that offered a grim foreshadowing of the Holocaust. It’s one of almost 100 works that tells its own profound story.

March 30th, 2015 | 7:30 pm

sekt porno film yap

March 30th, 2015 | 7:31 pm

Portsmouth Ricky Ho

March 30th, 2015 | 7:31 pm

After the fire was put out,Michael Kors Outlet, the body was found “wrapped in a type of cloth,Michael Kors,” according to police.

March 30th, 2015 | 7:32 pm

“He acted like he didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “He had the nerve to look me in the face and ask,Michael Kors Outlet, ‘What’s going on?’”

March 30th, 2015 | 7:33 pm

Pocock’s Wood have

March 30th, 2015 | 7:33 pm

39:13 Nathan Blockley (Airdrieonians) wins a free kick in the attacking half. 45:00 Second Half begins Ayr United 0.Montrose. 40:28 Corner,” says Mr Stark. “Commitment to quality comes first. 58:13 Attempt missed. Maximilian Arnold (VfL Wolfsburg) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

March 30th, 2015 | 7:34 pm

I’m not concerned

March 30th, 2015 | 7:34 pm
Tim Woodruff:

I recommend the OPALS(TM) (Ogren Plant Allergy Scale), which rates 5,000 plants from 1 (low) to 10 (you don’t want this in your life). Information can be found at and the full list is published in “The Allergy-Fighting Garden” by Tom Ogren. The focus is on outdoor plants, but the information can easily be applied to houseplant and office plant choices.

April 17th, 2015 | 6:06 pm

Right now it appears like Drupal is the preferred blogging platform out there right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

April 20th, 2015 | 6:08 pm

Really while someone doesn抰 know afterward its up apt other viewers that they want assist, so here it takes space.

December 13th, 2015 | 3:21 pm
Leave a Reply