A Journal exploring the value of plants and flowers
07-11-2017 Dr Green

What flowers should I give to someone with hay fever?

Words by Dr Green

Photos by Jaap Scheeren

Hi Dr. Green,

My best friend’s birthday is coming up. He loves flowers but also suffers terrible hay fever. What is a good variety to give?

Confused, Fred (26)

Hi Fred, 

Luckily for your friend, he’s not alone. On average, 1 in 5 people suffers from hay fever in western Europe. So there are many scientists and researchers out there working to take it down. They’re not far off. 

Hay fever is an allergy to pollen. So you need to avoid flora which contain high quantities of it. Peonies, hydrangeas, roses, orchids and primroses are a safe bet because there are all insect-pollinated flowers. Their pollen is thicker and stickier, which means it does not travel by wind. It has to be transported instead by bees and insects. 

In general, you should avoid large, brightly coloured flowers, as these tend to produce more pollen. At the top of your no-go list are chrysanthemums and sunflowers. Sunflowers are potentially the most dangerous as they have huge faces where their seeds and pollen are stored. Just a small gust of wind can unleash a whirlwind of pollen on an innocent bystander. 

Lilies are also considered no-go due to their high quantities of light, dusty pollen. But there are varieties now being engineered which contain no pollen at all. Ask your local florist if they have any in-store for you.

If you’re still uncertain, perhaps give him a packet of antihistamines, too? You can never be too careful.

The Doc.

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