March 30, 2023
Grass Allergies: Understanding & Treating Symptoms
Grass allergies are one the most common seasonal allergies, with over 12,000 different types of grasses across the United States. They can cause severe effects ranging from constant sneezing to grass allergy rash. Green grass season can be hard for those who suffer from seasonal allergies as there is no way to avoid grass pollen altogether. Read more on grass allergies triggers and grass allergy relief and treatment.
What causes grass allergies?
You experience grass allergies when you breathe in pollen that comes from certain types of grass seed that you're allergic to. Breathing in the pollen starts an allergic reaction within your body, causing your immune system to attack the allergen. Your body's attack on the allergen is what causes you to experience grass allergy symptoms.
You may not see the grass pollen in the air, but your body can react to even the smallest amounts.
What types of grasses trigger the most allergies?
If you’re allergic to grass, it’s very common to be allergic to more than one type. There are hundreds of types of grass, but only a few are responsible for your grass allergy symptoms. These would include:
- Timothy grass: Typically used as food for animals such as horses, sheep, guinea pigs, and rabbits It’s most common around roadsides, parks, and fields or meadows. It’s also one of the leading causes of seasonal allergies.
- Kentucky bluegrass: This high-maintenance grass is the most popular and frequently used type of grass in neighborhood lawns. Its ability to survive in the cold means that it can affect grass allergy sufferers for a longer period of time, going through mid-fall.
- Johnson grass: This invasive species is found in more temperate climates around the US. This fast-growing grass produces and releases an abundant amount of pollen each summer.
- Rye grass: Another common type of grass is used for turf, pastures, and lawns throughout the US. Similar to Bermuda grass, it has the ability to germinate rapidly in most climates. It has the fastest growth rate of all the cool-season grasses.
- Fescue grass: Fescue grass is more often found in northern areas of the US, as it’s better at withstanding the colder temperatures than some of the other grasses. This grass is less likely to trigger symptoms for those with a grass allergy because it doesn’t release pollen until it's 12 inches or taller.
- Bermuda grass: A very common type of grass throughout the US due to its resilience to drought However, Bermuda grass has the fastest growth rate of any of the other warm-season grasses, which means it can create a lot of pollen during the late spring and summer season. This creates an issue for those with grass allergies.
- Bahia grass: Known for its low maintenance and ability to thrive in hot climates, Bahia grass can typically be found in lawns across your neighborhood.
- Sweet vernal grass: Known for its distinct scent, sweet vernal is another grass that can be found in many parts of the US. Its grass pollen is very light, so it can travel for many miles, causing issues for those with grass allergies across the US.
- Orchard grass: Also known as cat grass. It also has a fruity-smelling fragrance. Can be a major cause of hayfever in the early summer, in combination with these other grasses.
Grass Allergy Symptoms
If you're allergic to grass, you're probably already familiar with these common grass allergy symptoms:
- Runny nose (nasal drainage)
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Grass rash
- Itchy nose, eyes, ears, and mouth
- Swelling around the eyes
In addition to the usual suspects of grass allergy symptoms above, these are 3 relatively common severe symptoms:
Grass allergy rash
While some of the symptoms of grass allergies are more reflective of common seasonal allergy symptoms, one might experience a grass allergy rash.
A grass allergy rash is a form of contact dermatitis, an itchy, red rash caused by an irritant or allergen. Sometimes, when coming into contact with grass, it can feel uncomfortable to the skin due to the microscopic bristles that rub against the skin, causing irritation.
The symptoms of grass allergy rash can range from mild to severe.
Depending on how sensitive your skin is or how bad your grass allergies are. A mild case of grass allergy rash can be a small red bump. Meanwhile, a severe case of grass allergy rash can look more like a hive.
If you’re experiencing a grass rash allergy, be sure to treat it properly.
- Wash the area gently with mild soap and water.
- Use a cold cloth or compress to soothe the area from any burning or itching sensation.
- If burning or itching still persists, take an antihistamine or apply a corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone, to help relieve any itching and inflammation.
Preventing a grass allergy rash can be simple with just a few precautionary measures. This can include washing your hands after coming into contact with grass and wearing protective clothing such as gloves, long sleeves, and pants.
It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you have sneezing, coughing, headaches, or a runny nose. Congestion can cause shortness of breath, making breathing difficult at night and causing you to wake up early or struggle to get to sleep in the first place, resulting in allergy fatigue. This can also reduce the amount of oxygen your body gets, which can affect both mental and physical performance.
Inflammation and congestion in the nasal cavity from allergies often lead to headaches, especially around the face. Sinus headaches are often described as “pressure in the face”. This feeling is due to swelling in the nasal cavities, which can block the airways in the nasal cavities.
Allergens in the air, such as pollen, can irritate your throat when you breathe them in. If you breathe through your mouth because of a stuffy nose, especially while sleeping, the airflow could also dry out your throat and make it feel sore. Many times after cutting grass, people will experience an influx in grass allergy symptoms such as a sore throat due to the amount of grass and other pollen being put into the air.
What do grass allergies feel like?
Grass allergy symptoms can feel like you have a common cold. You'll experience similar symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, headaches, swelling around the eyes, and potentially itchy eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Additionally, you may have rashes, such as a grass rash, a sore throat, and trouble sleeping. Grass allergy symptoms can last up to 2 to 3 weeks, depending on your sensitivity to the allergen.
When is grass allergy season?
Unlike other pollen allergy seasons that can really vary based on climate, grass allergy season begins in the early summer and lasts through the early fall, pretty much all around the US. Certain grasses might have different peak months, but they typically stay between summer and fall. If you want to see when grasses peak in your area, download our FREE allergy calendar!
That being said, if it seems like the grass allergy season is getting longer and longer, you’re right. Experts say that due to climate change, there has been an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating more heat and longer growing seasons. If the grass grows longer, then more pollen will be released throughout the season. This can be hard to cope with if you have a grass allergy, but following our prevention tips and treatment can help you minimize your grass allergy symptoms.
Foods and triggers to avoid if you have a grass allergy
It is common for people with pollen allergies to experience an itchy throat or mouth, or symptoms of allergic rhinitis, after eating certain foods, especially if they suffer from grass allergies. This is called Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome (PFAS). Timothy and orchard (or sweet vernal) grass have been found to cause the most OAS symptoms. Common foods involved with OAS to avoid if you suffer from grass allergies are:
- White Potato
Due to the different types of proteins found in other types of grasses, there may be variances in the foods to avoid if you're allergic to grass.
Testing for grass allergies:
Many regions of the United States have a predominance of one or more of these grasses. If you live in a region where these grasses are common and you have an allergy to them, it can be difficult to determine exactly which one(s) you’re allergic to. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus we test for seven different types of the most common grasses.
There are a few different ways to test for grass allergies. We primarily use two methods of testing to determine your allergies, testing for up to 58 different allergens. Let us help you figure out what might be causing your symptoms by ruling out 58 reasons!
Skin or prick testing for grass allergies
In order to see if you’re allergic to grass, we will perform a skin or prick test. In this procedure, we use a tiny needle that pricks your skin—this feels more like a dull pinch than pain.
A positive reaction to grass would look like a small, red, raised bump in the area where the grass allergen was placed on the skin.
H3: Intradermal testing for grass allergies
If your doctor performed a skin test and it was unclear if you reacted to the allergen or not, an intradermal test might be done. This injection of the allergen would cause most people's bodies to react with an allergic response. After 20 minutes, you will receive same-day results on whether or not you are allergic to grass.
Treating grass allergies
Short-term grass allergy treatments
Luckily, there are many things you can do to treat your grass allergy symptoms. Some people feel relief after taking antihistamines that help manage the histamine response and stop inflammation from occurring in their nose, eyes, and other mucous membranes. However, it should be noted that by taking over-the-counter medications, you’re only masking allergy symptoms, not treating the underlying causes.
Saline nasal sprays and rinses
Saline nasal sprays and rinses are easy to use, safe, and very effective at clearing congestion caused by grass allergies. Saline helps loosen certain types of mucus, which causes less blockage and prevents infections. Nasal saline rinses involve filling a bottle with water, putting a modified salt packet in the bottle, mixing it, and rinsing out your nose.
Nasal antihistamines are nasal sprays that contain antihistamines. Antihistamines are different from steroids and usually work quite quickly to bring relief to symptoms. Some people note a bitter taste with nasal antihistamines. As with any medication, they have other potential side effects, so one must discuss them with an allergist before using them.
Oral antihistamines are pills that can help with your grass allergy symptoms. They can help with the nasal drainage and sneezing symptoms. However, they usually do not help with nasal congestion as much as nasal steroid sprays can.
Long-term grass allergy treatments
Allergy shots or subcutaneous immunotherapy, are an excellent way to combat your troublesome grass allergies. Allergy shots train your body’s immune system to not react to allergens, thereby making them less of a trigger. Allergy shots are performed on a regular basis (usually weekly or monthly) in the office. The typical length of treatment is three to five years. Over time, your body will be able to handle these allergens without experiencing any symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, is a proven alternative to allergy shots. They are placed under the tongue daily and can be done at home, on your terms. They're a great choice for children who are new to allergy treatment or for adults who don't want the hassle of shots. With four different flavors and three drops per day under your tongue, it's easy to get started today!
We created ExACT Immunoplasty to help you fight the grass allergy symptoms you’ve been living with for too long! With just three shots over eight weeks, you can experience relief from your grass allergy as early as June. Clinical studies have shown that ExACT is just as effective as three years worth of allergy shots. Learn more at our website, or schedule your consultation online!
Managing grass allergy symptoms
We know how severe grass allergies can be, so we’ve put together our ten best prevention tips to beat your grass allergy symptoms:
- Limit time outside when the pollen counts are high. Check your local forecast and pollen count every day with pollen.com. It’s super easy, and you can add multiple cities to your radar.
- On high grass pollen count days, plan indoor activities like bowling, a museum, or watching a movie!
- Keep your lawn short. If possible, ask someone else to mow the lawn, but if that’s not possible, wear a mask. If you keep your lawn short, it’s less likely to release pollen. Close all your windows before mowing.
- Try artificial grass. Replacing grass with low-pollen ground cover, pollen-free gravel, rocks, or even artificial grass can significantly help your grass allergies.
- Wash your hair every day before bed to remove pollen and keep it out of your bed.
- Avoid certain foods like oranges, tomatoes, melons, and figs, as these can be a potential trigger to your grass pollen allergy.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat to keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair.
- Wipe off pets' paws and fur with a towel before letting them into the house. Also, keep pets off the bed and out of your bedroom.
- Remove shoes before entering your home and vacuum at least once a week! A cordless vacuum will make this task much easier—and maybe even more fun.
- Don’t tough it out; seek relief and book an appointment so you can enjoy your summer.
How Aspire Allergy & Sinus Can Help Your Grass Allergies
With the weather getting warmer, it’s time to get outdoors! Aspire Allergy & Sinus has been helping thousands of people overcome grass allergies for years. Our team of board-certified allergists is ready to help you overcome your grass allergies with a variety of treatments that are made to treat your specific needs! If you are suffering from grass allergies, don’t hesitate to book an appointment today.