For millions of people with serious allergies or asthma, as well as those with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), flowers can actually make them sick.

Despite the best intentions of giving a floral bouquet, flowers have two serious drawbacks for those who suffer from allergies, asthma or MCS: pollen and fragrance.

Allergies: The trouble with pollen

For those with allergies and asthma, pollen is an allergen. Pollen grains are a powdery substance produced by plants to carry their reproductive cells to other plants or, in many cases, to other parts of the same plant. Pollen grains easily become airborne because of their tiny size, which varies from 6 microns to 100 microns in diameter. When inhaled into the nose and throat, pollen can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.

Allergy sufferers: Better and worse flower choices

When choosing flowers to give to someone with allergies or asthma, avoid flowers that produce large amounts of airborne pollen:

Better Choices (less pollen)

  • Begonias
  • Geraniums
  • Lilies
  • Roses
  • Tulips

Worse Choices (more pollen)

  • Daisies
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Sunflowers
  • Baby’s Breath (single-flower variety)
  • Chamomile

MCS: Fragrance is a problem

For many people who suffer with MCS, the biggest problem with flowers is fragrance. Even mildly scented flowers can trigger a reaction for people with MCS. Odours are MCS triggers, so a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers will probably make someone with MCS miserable.

Although scientists continue to debate what causes reactions to fragrances, they agree that some people react to fragrances at lower levels than do others. One possible explanation is that the number of olfactory receptors in the nose varies widely from person to person. As a result, a mildly pleasant fragrance for one person may be overwhelming for another.

MCS sufferers: Better and worse flower choices

All flowers have some scent, so when choosing flowers to give to someone with MCS, choose less fragrant varieties:

Better choices (less fragrant)

  • Tulips
  • Dahlias
  • Sunflowers
  • Hibiscus
  • Least fragrant Rose varieties (such as Cherry Parfait)

Worse choices (more fragrant)

  • Jasmine
  • Gardenias
  • Tuberose
  • Highly fragrant Rose varieties (such as Amoretto)

By carefully choosing the right flowers for those with allergies and MCS, you will increase your chances of giving someone a pleasant and memorable gift. What’s more, the recipient of your gift will spend more time smiling and less time sneezing as a result of your thoughtfulness and careful selection.

If you suffer from allergies and/or MCS, you can enjoy flowers in your home while protecting yourself from the negative effects. Consider an air purifier for allergies. The HealthPro 250 is the #1 rated air purifier for asthma and allergies. If you suffer from MCS, you may want to look into an air purifier for MCS. The GC MultiGas is the #1 rated air purifier for MCS.