Asthma vs Yard Work

Asthma vs Yard Work

Last updated: March 2022

Well, the title isn't quite as catchy as "Man vs Food", but asthma and yard work can be just as challenging!

You see, the majority of us that have asthma also have allergies. In fact, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says that between 65% -75% of those with asthma also have allergies.

It's important to avoid anything that triggers your allergies (like that's possible.....) in order to control your asthma.

I have one word to say about this: Ivy

Yep, English Ivy looks gorgeous on my house - but to trim it can be an adventure. The ivy seems to love our hot summers, and we have to trim it back several times a year. In fact, the neighbors asked for an ivy start to plant on the side of our garage that is facing their yard. Can't blame them - who wants to look at an ugly cinder block garage from their house?

Well, not only is the entire side of my garage covered in ivy, but it has grown under the eaves and inside my garage, now getting caught in the garage door when I open it to go to work. And the small chain link fence that divides our yards looks like it's about to be toppled by the thick ivy. In fact, you can't even SEE the fence anymore, just a vague outline.

So, the battle to keep the ivy in check continues each year. I think it resents the fact that I trim it, because it scratches up my arms, leaves hives on my arms, and makes me sneeze. Then I sneeze harder, then start coughing, and then I have a full out asthma attack. says that

"In addition to poison ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix and related species) can cause an allergic skin reaction. Even though the two plants aren't related, allergic reactions have been reported in gardeners after trimming English ivy and in children who played with English ivy or climbed trees covered with it. Itching, rashes, and weepy blisters can occur."1

The only thing that helps my asthma attack is a mad dash to the shower to scrub my hair and body. I emerge sopping wet, still coughing, and with a tight and sore chest.

You would think I would delegate this task, but all 3 of my kids also have allergies and asthma (so, of course, I can't make them trim it), and my husband is always busy doing something else. With 2 kids in college, hiring a gardener is not in the budget either.

Last night I cut back a few bushes near the chain link fence. It wasn't until after I was picking up the clippings that I noticed the ivy underneath the bushes. It has spread 15 feet down the fence line from the garage.

"Not to worry", I told myself. I wasn't on the ladder trimming the ivy from the eaves, so I should be okay. It seems like the time I have the most problems is when I'm pulling the creepers off the eaves and reaching way over my head. Then, a lot of dirt and other things from the ivy falls into my hair and onto my skin.

But since the ivy was on the ground, I figured I was safe and so I didn't shower before bed.

Yeah, well - that didn't work. I woke up during the night coughing and needed my inhaler. I should have known.

The English Ivy and I now appear to be at war. But now I know it's game plan. It is going to make me pay me for trimming it back. It's going to get into my hair and onto my skin and make me miserable. I've learned it doesn't seem to matter if I am trimming the ivy from below or are standing above it to trim it, I will still have to hit the shower after I finish yard work.

English Ivy: 3

Me: 0

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