Plant Allergies


Some people can develop irritation and allergic reactions to some garden and house plants.

These reactions might only be a mild itching, but in some cases the reactions can be quite severe and require medical treatment.

There are three main types of contact hazard, they are; Sap, Chemicals and Irritant hairs.

Irritant sap:

Sap from some plants can affect people when it comes in contact with exposed skin.

This can cause a burning sensation and in cases; blistering.

House plants such as Dieffenbachia, Epipremnum, Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) Schefflera, Spathiphyllum (Peace lily) and are common examples.

Phytotoxic sap:

Plants that contain phytotoxic sap can render skin sensitivity in strong sunlight.

Contact with the plant followed by exposure to sunlight results in severe sunburn with blistering and long lasting skin discoloration.

Heracleum (hogweed) and Ruta (rue) are classic examples.

If you come into contact with these plants when mulching or weeding, ensure skin is covered and avoid strimming near plants to prevent contact with face and eyes.

Celery, Parsnips and other plants from hogweed family may also cause skin blistering.

Allergen plants: (chemicals)

This group of plants contain chemicals called allergens.

These may only affect a few people whose skin is sensitive to the particular chemical.

People who handle plants regularly such as florists can become sensitized to specific plants.

The following list of plants can affect people in varying degrees.

Asparagus fern, Daffodils, Ficus benjamina (weeping fig), Hyacinth, Primula obconica and Tulips.

Euphorbias produces milky sap, although sap from Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) is seldom harmful.

Hazardous hairs:

Some plants have irritant hairs, these cause skin itching, and if breathed in can lead to respiratory problems.

These types of plant are best handled with gloves, and take care not to breathe in the hairs when pruning, if necessary wear a mask.

The following plants fit this category; Echium, Fremontodendron, Myosotis, Pulmonaria and Symphytum.

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