May 31, 2019
Grass Allergies: Understanding & Treating Symptoms
When my son started playing baseball, we realized how truly allergic to grass he was. After practices and games, he would have horrible sneezing, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, and his skin would break out in rashes. A lot of people don’t understand the effects that grass allergies can have.
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 attacking the allergen is what causes you to experience grass allergy symptoms.
What time of year do I need to worry about grass allergies?
Grass can be a year-round issue for people in warmer places like Texas, Florida, and Arizona but grass season is at its highest in the spring and summer. You may not see the grass pollen in the air, but your body can react to even the smallest amounts.
Which type of grass am I allergic to?
If you’re allergic to grass, it’s very common to be allergic to more than one type. There are hundreds of types of grasses, but only a few are responsible for allergy symptoms. Stay on top of your game and find out what grasses are in your area!
The most common types of allergy-causing grasses are:
- Timothy grass
- Kentucky Blue grass
- Johnson grass
- Rye grass
- Fescue grass
- Bermuda grass
- Bahia grass
- Sweet Vernal grass
- Orchard grass
Many regions of the United States have a predominance of one or more types of these grasses. To know exactly what grasses you’re specifically allergic to, you can get an allergy test.
Grass Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms of grass allergies include
- Runny nose (nasal drainage)
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Itchy and watery eyes
- 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:
1. Difficulty sleeping
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, 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.
3. Sore throat
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 also could 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 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.
Here are 10 ways you can reduce symptoms of grass allergies:
- Limit time outside when the pollen counts are high. Check your local forecast and pollen count every day. We like the Pollen.com app. 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.
- Think about replacing grass with low-pollen ground cover, pollen-free gravel, rocks, or even artificial grass.
- Bathe and shampoo 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.
- Don’t forget about your pets! Wipe off their paws and fur with a towel before letting them into the home. 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 with over-the-counter medications and enjoy your summer. Start by trying a newer, non-sedating antihistamine for daily control during the height of grass pollen season.
Grass allergy treatment
Short term relief
There are many things you can do to treat your grass allergy symptoms. Over-the-counter medications won’t solve the underlying issue but they will relieve your symptoms for 24-48 hours.
Nasal saline sprays are available over-the-counter and involve spraying saline, or saltwater, in your nostrils. 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 have 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 medications, 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 allergy symptoms. They can help the nasal drainage and sneezing symptoms. However, they usually do not help nasal congestion, as nasal steroid sprays can.
Long term relief
If you want to tackle your grass pollen allergy for good, the best thing to do is get an allergy test to confirm your allergy and start immunotherapy. Immunotherapy introduces small amounts of the grass pollen allergen over time, letting your body build up a tolerance so it no longer sees it as a threat.
Allergy Drops (or sublingual immunotherapy)
Allergy drops are placed under the tongue daily and can be done at home, on your terms. Allergy drops are equally as effective as allergy shots and have no severe anaphylactic reactions reported, which sometimes happens with allergy shots. The typical length of treatment is three to five years for long-lasting relief.
Allergy shots are performed on a regular basis (usually weekly or monthly) in the office as there is the potential for allergic reactions to them. Like allergy drops, the length of treatment is three to five years.