June 9, 2017

Grass Allergy Symptoms and Treatment

Effective ways to live well with the grass pollen allergy, even if grass is everywhere

Do you experience a skin rash when sitting on a grassy hill? Or does breathing in the fresh air trigger eye itching, a stuffy or runny nose, and a cough? If so, you are allergic to pollen from grass. Breathing in grass pollen or direct skin exposure to grass can give rise to a grass pollen allergy.

Common Symptoms of Grass Allergy

In the late spring and early summer months, grasses start releasing pollen into the air, causing different allergy symptoms in people like:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis (itchy, watery eyes, swollen, bluish skin beneath the eyes)
  • Allergic rhinitis (runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, sinus pressure, nasal congestion)
  • Asthma (cough, labored breathing, wheezing, tight feeling in the chest)
  • Scratchy throat, decreased sense of taste or smell
  • Direct contact with grass may cause allergic reactions such as itching, atopic eczema (called atopic dermatitis), and urticaria (called hives).

How to Diagnose a Grass Allergy?

Grass Allergy

There are hundreds of grasses that trigger allergic reactions. They distinguish two common classes of allergic grass: southern and northern grasses. Southern grasses are common in warmer climates and Bermuda grass is the prominent culprit in this category. Northern grasses are present in colder climates and include such common culprits as sweet vernal, redtop, timothy, orchard, and blue grasses. As pollens of different grasses have similar proteins that cause allergies, you may be allergic to many types of grass or to some of them.

To determine which strains you are allergic to, it is necessary to pass an allergy test. A blood test or a skin prick test is performed by allergists in order to determine the specific allergen that’s causing symptoms in your body. During the skin prick test procedure, the different areas of the skin will be pricked and a small amount of various types of allergens will be inserted. If a red, raised area is developed within 15 to 20 minutes and it looks like a hive, then the test is positive, indicating you’re allergic to these substances.

How is a Food Allergy associated with Grass?

Allergies to grass can trigger oral allergy syndrome (OAS) which is caused by cross reactivity between proteins in grass pollen and fruits and vegetables. If you are allergic to grass pollen, you are more likely prone to having also a fruit pollen syndrome, which is triggered by food allergies to potatoes, tomatoes, celery, melons, and peaches that have proteins similar with those in grass pollen and may be the cause of the itching in your mouth.

Food allergy symptoms don’t occur with cooked or processed foods. The proteins in the fruits and vegetables can be easily destroyed when cooking or processing foods.

How to Treat a Grass Allergy?

If you feel you have a grass allergy or you are prone to having it, speak to your physician or allergist and get tested. The test is the best way to know if you are allergic to pollen or maybe something else trigger your symptoms.

If you really have a grass allergy, there are some effective ways to decrease your exposure to pollen and minimize your symptoms:

Reducing exposure: You can reduce your pollen grass exposure by staying indoors and closing your windows on dry and windy days. Another good way is to shower after being outdoors and to wash off pollen from your skin. Prevent yourself from any gardening or yard work during months of high pollen count. Wear a dust mask during peak seasons.

Prescription medication: Prescription medication can be administered in case of severe allergies. You can also fall back on immunotherapy. It involves introducing small amounts of the allergen, which, over several months, will lessen your reaction to grass.

eye drops

Closeup of optometrist hands putting eye drops in patients eye in clinic

Eye drops: To treat eye watering and itchiness, use eye drops.

OTC meds: Over-the-counter remedies such as nasal saline sprays or rinses may also ease your symptoms, reducing congestion. You are recommended to talk with the doctor before trying any nasal steroid spray, as it may sometimes cause some side effects. If you are prone to having an allergic reaction to grass, you can try to take OTC antihistamines to relieve your grass allergy symptoms very quickly. Itching and hives triggered by direct grass exposure can be treated with oral antihistamines.

Immunotherapy: It can be prescribed as allergy shots (it is also called subcutaneous immunotherapy) or sublingually (tablet underneath the tongue). Sublingual immunotherapy is more convenient and comfortable, but subcutaneous immunotherapy is more effective. Currently, there are three main sublingual tablets, approved by the FDA, for treating allergic rhinitis caused by a grass pollen allergy: Grastek (Timothy grass pollen allergen extract), Oralair (five-grass pollen allergen extract), and Ragwitek (ragweed pollen allergen extract). Allergy shots are recommended in cases when medications are not enough to lessen allergic symptoms. Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots involves injecting the allergen, gradually increasing its amount over time. These shots modify the response of the immune system to the allergen, minimizing the severity of the allergic reactions.

Skin rash treating: To treat skin rash symptoms caused by the pollen grass allergy, use lotions, ointments, and emollients.

Good news

A grass pollen allergy is common, and you can live well with it by experiencing one or all of the methods mentioned above, by using immunotherapy, OTC or prescription meds as needed. You should see your doctor so you can develop a treatment scheme that works best for you.

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