Asthma Society ‘nose’ how to garden safely

Up to 400,000 people with asthma also suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis ), which is triggered by pollen, dust and spores. Allergies often deter people from enjoying their garden and that was the theme of the Asthma Society of Ireland’s ‘Treat not Trigger - the Asthma & Allergy Friendly Garden’ on show at the Bloom festival last week. The imaginative garden was designed by horticulturist, Fiann O’Nuallain, to highlight how better air quality and managing environmental triggers contribute to improved asthma control and a better quality of life in general for people with asthma and allergies.

Former captain of the Dublin football team, Colin or ‘Collie’ Moran who was diagnosed with asthma in his teens, was on hand to lend his support. He encouraged people with asthma to experience the allergy-friendly garden, which features landscaping in the shape of lungs, low allergy rated flowers and pleeched trees, signifying connecting airways

To support the positive message of the garden, the Asthma Society has released a series of practical tips on how to create an allergy-friendly garden at home. The tips advise people on how to garden safely; suggesting the best types of plants to use, when to wear a protective mask and how to use bird feeders to keep insect dander out of the breathable atmosphere.

Twelve tips to help you garden safely:

1. Choose plants that are pollinated by bees, the pollen is heavier and sticky and therefore stays on the bees rather than floating around the garden.

2. Avoid wind pollinated plants which disperse copious amounts of pollen into the air.

3. Avoid plants which are intensely fragrant as they can be a trigger for allergies and asthma.

4. Choose female plants, as they produce no pollen. Sterile male plants are also a good choice.

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5. Grass is a major pollen producer so mow your lawn regularly, before it flowers.

6. Wear a mask when mowing lawn or trimming hedge.

7. If possible replace your lawn with gravel

8. Replace organic mulches with inorganic mulches

9. Avoid ornamental grasses in your planting schemes.

10. Remove hedges which harbour dust, pollen grains and mould spores which can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.

11. Planting female and thus fruiting trees will attract birds to feed on insects

12. If space is limited place bird feeders will attract birds to keep insect dander out of your breathable atmosphere.

Asthma Society CEO, Dr Jean Holohan, speaking at the launch said, “The ‘Treat not Trigger’ garden is lush and florally abundant, tackling the misconception that people with asthma or allergies cannot enjoy gardening, when in fact they can. We want to show visitors that they can improve their asthma control by taking simple steps to avoid triggers, such as planting low allergy rated flowers. We encourage everyone with asthma or allergies to join us at Bloom to learn how to garden safely and extend our thanks to Bord Bia, TEVA and Kilsaran for their ongoing support with this initiative.”

“The Asthma Society of Ireland’s garden is a great way to raise awareness about common asthma and allergy triggers in the garden,” said Collie Moran, who was diagnosed with asthma in his early teens. “Once I learned to control my asthma and what was triggering my condition, my football career started to excel. This garden demonstrates the link between asthma control and air quality in a creative way that everyone can relate to.”

For more information on gardening with asthma, visit the ‘Treat not Trigger’ garden or log onto asthmasociety.ie and download the ‘Gardening with Asthma & Allergies and Creating an Allergy-Friendly Garden’ booklet. The booklet is also available at the ‘Treat not Trigger’ information stand during the festival.

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry the air in and out of the lungs. Children with asthma have airways that are extra sensitive to substances (or triggers ) which irritate them. Common triggers include cold and flu, cigarette smoke, exercise and allergic responses to pollen, furry or feathery animals or house-dust mites.

When the airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the muscle around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower. The lining of the airways swell and produce a sticky mucus. As the airways narrow, it becomes difficult for the air to move in and out. That is why your child will find breathing difficult and you might hear a wheezing noise.

Whilst there is no cure, asthma can be controlled by avoiding ‘triggers’ and by the use of ‘reliever’ and ‘preventer’ medication. Relievers are medicines that people with asthma take immediately when asthma appears. Preventers help calm down the airways and stop them from being so sensitive.

Talk to your GP or asthma nurse about which treatment is most suitable for you.

The Asthma Society of Ireland is a national voluntary association representing people with asthma, their parents, medical personnel and all those with an interest in the condition.

The Asthma Society of Ireland provides information, advice and reassurance to people with asthma and to their immediate families. Running campaigns on behalf of people with asthma to promote awareness and understanding of the condition, and representing their members’ interests in policy-making forums at a national and European level is all part of their remit. The Asthma Society of Ireland supports a number of research programmes which they hope will ultimately lead us to achieving their goal of an Ireland free from asthma.

The Asthma Society of Ireland’s goal is to work towards a situation where people with asthma can realise their full potential, and not be at a disadvantage health-wise, socially or financially.

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