Worst Indoor Plants for Allergies - What to Avoid

Indoor plants can bring life and beauty to our homes, but they aren’t always the best option for everyone, especially those with allergies. Choosing the wrong houseplants could result in increased allergy symptoms and discomfort for sensitive individuals. This article aims to explore some of the worst indoor plants for allergy sufferers, so you can make an informed decision when selecting your green companions.

Plants can trigger allergies through various means, including their pollen, fragrance, sap, or even the dust that accumulates on their leaves. Furthermore, plants that are wind-pollinated are more likely to cause allergy symptoms compared to those that rely on insects for pollination. Understanding which plants aggravate allergies and why they do so will help you create a healthier living environment for yourself and other allergy-prone family members or guests.

Understanding Plant Allergies

Common Symptoms

Allergies caused by indoor plants can manifest in various ways, including respiratory problems, skin rashes, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Some common symptoms of plant allergies are:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itching
  • Skin rashes or irritation
  • Asthma or shortness of breath (in more severe cases)

Allergens and Triggers

There are several factors that can trigger allergic reactions to indoor plants. These include:

  • Pollen: Some plants release pollen, which can cause allergic reactions such as hay fever in susceptible individuals.
  • Soil: Mould and other allergens can grow in plant soil, especially in damp conditions. These allergens can then be released into the air, potentially causing respiratory issues.
  • Spores: Mould spores from plant soil or decaying leaves can become airborne and trigger allergies.
  • Pet allergens: Pet hair or dander can accumulate on plant leaves, acting as an additional allergen source.
  • Chemical allergens: Some indoor plants can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and benzene, which can cause health issues in sensitive individuals.
  • Latex allergies: A few plant species, such as those from the Euphorbia family, contain latex sap, which can cause severe allergic reactions in some people, even potentially leading to anaphylactic shock.

It is essential to be aware of these allergens and triggers in order to minimise allergic reactions and maintain a comfortable living environment. Maintaining good hygiene and air quality within your home, as well as selecting plants with lower allergen potential, can help you enjoy the benefits of indoor plants without the unwanted side effects.

Worst Indoor Plants for Allergies

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums, often referred to as mums or chrysanths, are beautiful flowering plants that can cause allergies due to their high pollen content. In addition, their foliage can harbour mould spores, which can also trigger allergies. People sensitive to daisy family plants may experience itchy eyes, contact dermatitis, or headaches when exposed to chrysanthemums.

Orchids

Orchids might be eye-catching, but they can cause allergies in people with sensitive skin. The sweet-sounding sap, called “honeydew”, can cause rashes and blistering upon contact. However, the pollen in orchids is stickier, which reduces its chances of triggering allergic reactions compared to other plants.

Ragweed-Related Plants

Many houseplants are related to ragweed, a highly allergenic plant that releases a large number of pollen grains. Sunflowers, dahlia, and baby’s breath are examples of ragweed-related plants that can cause allergies in sensitive individuals.

Ferns

Ferns can exacerbate allergies, as they release spores known to cause respiratory issues. Additionally, ferns can collect dust on their leaves, which may provoke allergic reactions in people sensitive to dust.

English Ivy

English ivy is another common indoor plant known to cause allergies. The sap in the leaves contains compounds that can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Furthermore, as ivy collects dust on its leaves, it may also trigger dust-related allergies.

Lilies

While lilies are visually appealing, their strong fragrance can cause allergic reactions like sneezing and itchy eyes. Allergy sufferers should be cautious around lilies and may consider opting for hypoallergenic varieties, such as the peace lily or spider plants.

Hyacinth

The captivating scent of hyacinth makes it a popular indoor plant; however, it can also trigger allergies in people sensitive to strong fragrances. Exposure to hyacinth can cause headaches, itchy eyes, and contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals.

Bonsai Trees

Many bonsai trees, such as maple, elm, oak, and mulberry, produce pollen that can cause allergies in humans. People with pollen allergies should avoid bonsai trees or select hypoallergenic varieties like the dracaena or snake plant.

Grasses and Trees

Some indoor houseplants, like male palms and grasses, produce pollen or harbour dust that can cause allergic reactions. Allergy sufferers should carefully choose their houseplants to avoid exacerbating symptoms.

Golden Pothos

Golden pothos, also known as devil’s ivy, is a popular houseplant known for its air-purifying properties. However, it can cause skin irritation due to the presence of latex, which can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. If you have a latex allergy, consider other air-purifying plants like the spider plant or weeping fig.

Dealing with Plant Allergens

Air-Purifying Plants

Some houseplants are known to help purify the air and reduce allergens. Here are a few air-purifying plants that may help:

  • Areca Palm: This plant removes air toxins while adding humidity to the air.
  • Lady Palm: It is a great choice for removing pollutants and can help decrease indoor allergens.
  • Rubber Tree: This sturdy plant can reduce airborne allergens by trapping them on its large leaves.

Although it is tempting to choose fragrant plants like roses and jasmine, remember that their strong scents can trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.

Cleaning Tips

Proper plant care and cleaning can help minimise allergens in your home. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Dust your plants’ leaves regularly to remove any pollen, mould spores or dust particles.
  • Consider using a damp cloth to remove dust from large-leafed plants like peace lilies and bonsais, as it is more effective than dry dusting.
  • Place air-purifying plants like the areca palm, lady palm, and rubber tree in well-ventilated areas.

Gardening Precautions

Taking precautions while caring for houseplants can help you avoid exacerbating allergies. Remember:

  • Wear gardening gloves to protect your skin from potential irritants and allergens.
  • Make sure to dust and clean plants like Boston ferns regularly, as they have many small leaves that can collect allergens.
  • Choose non-allergenic plants like peace lilies, which not only help purify the surrounding air but also produce less pollen.

Alternative Hypoallergenic Plants

In contrast to allergy-inducing plants, there are several indoor plants that are typically considered friendly for people with allergies. This section features some hypoallergenic plants that can be used as an alternative for a better indoor environment.

African Violets

African Violets are known for their beautiful, vibrant foliage and flowers. They are excellent hypoallergenic indoor plants as they do not produce airborne pollen. African Violets can help improve indoor air quality and alleviate allergy symptoms for people with dust allergies or allergic rhinitis.

Palms

Palms are great indoor plants for allergy sufferers due to their low pollen production. Lady Palms, in particular, are known to be a good choice for those with pollen allergies. Besides being a visually appealing option, they are effective in reducing eye irritation and other allergy symptoms.

Chamomile

Chamomile is a soothing herb that is often used for its calming properties. As an indoor plant, it releases minimal airborne pollen, which makes it suitable for those with pollen allergies. Remember to handle the plant with gloves if you have sensitive skin, as the sap can cause irritation.

Dumb Cane

Dumb Cane is an attractive, low-maintenance indoor plant known for its lush, tropical foliage. It is an excellent choice for people with allergies due to its air-purifying qualities. However, be cautious while handling the plant and keep it out of reach from children, as its sap can be toxic if ingested.

Weeping Figs

Weeping Figs, also known as Ficus, are popular indoor plants for their elegant appearance. They help filter allergens and pollutants from the air, making them a good option for those with dust allergies. As with other plants mentioned, it’s best to wear gloves when handling these plants to prevent irritation from sap contact.

Lady Palms

Lady Palms are another type of palm that can help in alleviating allergy symptoms. With their lush, dark green foliage, they can effectively purify the air and reduce airborne allergens. Choosing female plants will be even more beneficial, as male varieties produce more pollen.

Snake Plant

Snake Plant is a sturdy, low-maintenance option for indoor spaces. It is known for its ability to filter out allergens and pollutants, making it an excellent choice for those suffering from allergies. Additionally, it helps increase humidity levels in your home, which can provide relief for people with dust allergies or allergic rhinitis.

In summary, these hypoallergenic indoor plants can significantly improve indoor air quality and contribute to a more comfortable living environment for allergy sufferers.