What You Need to Know About Grass Allergies
Published Jul 6, 2016
By Bob Lanier, MD, Special to Everyday Health
Many people love the smell of fresh cut grass. But for people with allergies, it can put a damper on the warmer weather months. Here are some key things to keep in mind about grass allergies.
If you have an allergy to grass, you’re most likely allergic to grass pollen. Very rarely, people might have an allergy to the grass leaf, in which case a reaction occurs when the skin comes into contact with grass.
There are some things you can do to avoid grass pollen, including:
- Monitor pollen and mold counts. Local weather reports typically include this information.
- Keep windows and doors shut at home and in your car as much as possible.
- Stay inside when pollen counts tend to be highest.
- Take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes after you’ve been working or playing outdoors.
- Wear a dust mask rated N95 by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) when mowing the lawn or doing other outdoor chores, and take appropriate medication beforehand.
Here are a couple things that do not work well for people with grass allergies:
- Planting rocks instead of grass. Grass pollen floats in the air for hundreds of miles, so what’s in your yard is relatively unimportant. It’s the tall grass growing in fields and ditches that sends out pollens.
- Moving. There’s actually no populated area in the world without grasses, except in Greenland. And relocating there may not be a practical option.
Know Your Treatment Options
Since you can’t avoid grass pollen altogether, you should prepare for it. Fortunately, there are several options.
Antihistamines are drugs that help relieve allergy symptoms by blocking the chemical histamine, which your body produces when you have an allergic reaction. Nasal steroid spraysthat relieve inflammation and congestion are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. There are also antihistamine and nasal steroid spray combinations on the market.
For people with severe allergies who can’t stand the thought of frequent allergy shots, there are prescription tablets that are taken orally. You should consult an allergist to determine what treatment might work best for you.
If you’re allergic to grass, you may also have a reaction to certain fruits and vegetables. Oral allergy syndrome, also known as pollen-food syndrome, is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in pollen as well as raw fruits, vegetables, and some tree nuts. People who are allergic to grass pollen sometimes experience an itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat when they eat foods such as celery, melons, oranges, peaches, and tomatoes. The symptoms usually go away quickly once you swallow or remove the food from your mouth. Cooking fruits and vegetables can also help.
When it comes to freshly cut lawns, grass pollen probably isn’t what’s causing your symptoms. Most lawn grass is cut long before it pollinates. What mowing your lawn does do is stir up mold and dust. If you have to cut the grass, cover up with a hat, gloves, facemask, and long sleeves. And when you’re done, take a shower.
Remember that a board-certified allergist is trained to identify your triggers, and can help you develop a plan to deal with grass or other allergies. To find an allergist in your area, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers an online allergist locator.
Bob Lanier, MD, is executive medical director and a past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. He is a practicing allergist in Fort Worth, Texas.