Despite one’s best intentions in giving a floral bouquet, flowers have two serious drawbacks for those who have allergies, asthma, or MCS: pollen and fragrance.
Allergies and pollen
For people 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; for comparison, bacteria are around 3 microns in size and table salt is around 120 microns in diameter. When inhaled into the nose and throat, pollen can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
Better and worse flower choices for asthma and allergies
When choosing flowers to give to someone with allergies or asthma, avoid flowers that produce large amounts of airborne pollen. There are several allergy and asthma-friendly flowers:1,2
Better Choices (less pollen)
Worse Choices (more pollen)
- baby’s breath (single-flower variety)
MCS and Fragrance
For many people with MCS, the biggest problem with flowers is fragrance. Even mildly scented flowers can trigger a reaction for people with MCS.
Examples of common MCS symptoms may include:3
- memory loss and confusion
- muscle and joint aches
Odors are MCS triggers. Gifting a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers to a person with MCS may trigger any of the listed symptoms.
Better and worse flower choices for MCS
All flowers have some scent. Flowers emit a scent – volatile organic compounds or VOCs – to attract birds and insects for pollination.
When choosing flowers to give to someone with MCS, choose less fragrant varieties. There are several flowers that should be either preferred or avoided for people with MCS:4
Better choices (less fragrant)
- least fragrant rose varieties (such as cherry parfait)
Worse choices (more fragrant)
- baby's breath
- lilies - Stargazer, Casablanca, and lilyof the valley
- 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. The recipient of your gift will spend more time smiling and less time sneezing because of your careful selection.
If you have allergies, asthma, or MCS, you can still enjoy flowers in your home while protecting yourself from the negative effects.