House plants add color to a home's interior, and help filter and clean the air. NASA's Clean Air Report found that certain plants remove harmful toxins from within a home. In some cases, however, house plants can actually trigger allergic reactions and worsen a person's overall health. If you experienced sudden-onset symptoms soon after bringing a house plant into your home, a house plant allergy may the cause.
Some varieties of house plants secrete fluids onto their leaves and stems. These fluids cause sensitivity in some people. The most common cause of a skin allergy being triggered by a house plant is contact. If you touch the leaves or stems when you water or repot the plant, these plant secretions can transfer to your skin, causing itching, hives, or eczema. The reaction is almost always immediate, so the plant owner can pinpoint the cause.
House plants can cause runny nose and itchy eyes in some allergic individuals. Unlike skin plant allergies, sinus allergies are not caused by contact. A person whose sinuses are affected by a house plant inhales small particles that contain the plant's allergenic secretions. The most common culprit of sinus allergies to house plants is the Ficus benjamina. The allergen of the ficus is in a milky substance that it secretes through its leaves. This substance attaches to dust particles and airborne fibers. When these come in contact with an allergic person, it causes itchy, watery eyes, and stuffy or runny nose. This can happen even though the person never came in direct contact with the plant.
This allergy is often difficult to diagnose, because it takes a considerable amount of time for the ficus and dust particles to saturate the home's air and affect the person.
Plants can cause symptoms of the lungs in the same way that they cause sinus symptoms. Allergenic secretions of the plants attached to dust particles are inhaled into the lungs, where they cause inflammation and irritation. In people prone to asthma, the affect could be frequent and severe asthma attacks.
Mold Allergies and House Plants
The soil that house plants grow in often have mold spores growing on the surface. The constant moist conditions lend themselves to mold growth. People with allergies to mold may experience allergy symptoms without knowing what the cause of the symptoms is. Avoid mold allergy reactions to house plants by keeping your plants in areas of the home where they are able to dry out from time to time. Keep plants out of the bathrooms, where steam from the shower keeps the pot, plant, and soil moist.
Consider taking traditional house plants out of the home, and replacing them with cacti and other succulents that thrive in drier soil conditions.
Allergies often overlap each other, and patients are not aware of links between their triggers. Ficus plant secretions are similar to latex. People with allergies to latex are also allergic to the secretions of the ficus plant, therefore anyone with a latex sensitivity should keep ficus plants out of their homes.