Are Your Symptoms Pointing to a Grass Allergy?
Grass allergy can occur as a result of inhaling grass pollen or coming into direct contact with grass. Sometimes, when you spend time on the fresh air, especially in spring, your eyes may start itching, and you may develop a runny nose. Or an itchy rash may appear after you’ve been sitting on the grass in a park.
In addition, allergy to grass has been linked to fruit pollen syndrome, which means it can lead to the development of food allergies to tomatoes, potatoes and peaches.
What Symptoms Are Typical for a Grass Allergy?
Grass allergy may cause different reactions, such as allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and asthma. While allergic rhinitis causes sneezing, nasal congestion, and runny nose, allergic conjunctivitis results in red, watery and itchy eyes. The symptoms of asthma commonly include coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and chest tightness.
Usually, grass pollen counts are the highest during the late spring and early summer. Unlike some other types of pollen that are carried by insects, grass pollen is transported by the wind, which means that exposure to it is more likely to happen.
How to Diagnose a Grass Allergy?
Generally, grasses are divided into two major classes: northern and southern. Northern grasses include rye, orchard, timothy, red top, sweet vernal, as well as blue grasses. These are all typical for colder climates.
Bermuda grass is the major kind of southern grasses, which are common in warmer climates.
People who have a grass allergy are often sensitive to most types of grasses, or all of them. This is because grass pollens contain similar allergy-inducing proteins. However, experts do recommend that you see a specialist and conduct an allergy test to identify the exact cause of your allergy.
Your doctor may perform a skin prick test or a blood test. The skin prick test involves pricking the area of the skin surface of your forearm or back and exposing it to the allergen – a small amount of grass extract. If you are allergic to it, within 15 minutes, you will develop a red bump on the affected are of your skin.
What Connects Allergies to Food and Grass?
In some cases, people who are allergic to grass pollen can cross-react to the proteins found in fresh fruits and vegetables. This means that grass allergy increases your risk of developing an oral allergy syndrome (OAS).
If you have a grass pollen allergy, you will likely to experience OAS symptoms after eating tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, oranges and melons. However, the solution involves cooking or processing the allergenic foods, as their proteins are broken down by heat.
Eating these foods fresh can cause itching, burning or stinging in the mouth, tongue, and throat. Since the symptoms are easily reduced by your saliva, they don’t usually last longer than a few minutes. Oral allergy syndrome can also lead to an anaphylactic reaction, but this is rare.
How to Treat the Symptoms of a Grass Allergy?
If you notice having allergy symptoms after being exposed to grass, you should see your doctor. In order to confirm or refute a grass allergy, the doctor will perform a test.
In case of an allergy, there is no way to get rid of this disorder. However, you can still control your symptoms by limiting your exposure to the allergen and taking allergy medications.
Thus, you can reduce exposure to grass by staying indoors when grass pollen counts are high. When you come home after being outside, you are recommended to change your clothes and take a shower in order to remove pollen from your hair and body.
Mild allergy symptoms can be alleviated with a help of various over-the-counter medications, such as saline sprays (rinses). Such sprays can reduce nasal congestion be hydrating the inside part of your nose. There are also some steroid sprays available over the counter. For example, a spray called Flonase (fluticasone propionate) can help with inflammation in your nose. Since a lot of allergy drugs can cause some unwanted side effects, you need to check with your doctor before taking any meds.
You can also ease grass allergy symptoms using some over-the-counter antihistamines. Itchy skin and hives resulted from direct exposure to grass can be reduced with oral antihistamines.
If your allergy causes severe reactions, your doctor may recommend you some prescription medicines.
When it comes to long-term allergy treatment, you can try immunotherapy. In immunotherapy, a doctor introduces small amounts of an allergen into your body. In time, this is believed to help you develop immunity to the allergen. There are two types of immunotherapy, such as allergy shots or tablets. Allergy shots, also known as subcutaneous immunotherapy, is considered to be more effective. However, sublingual immunotherapy (allergy tablets) tends to be more comfortable. Besides, the risk of having a systemic reaction during the immunotherapy is lower with tablets than shots.
Until now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two sublingual tablets designed to treat grass pollen-related allergic rhinitis in children and adults. These are Oralair, which contains five different grass pollen extracts, and Grastek that contains a Timothy grass pollen.
The Bottom Line
A grass allergy is a commonly occurring disorder, and fortunately, there are various ways to control the symptoms. Small behavioral modifications combined with over-the-counter or prescription medications can help a lot. In addition, you can also go through immunotherapy. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor.