Understanding and treating grass allergies
If summer is the worst time of year for your allergies, you may just be allergic to grass. But you’re not alone! Nearly 60 million Americans suffer from allergies. While, avoidance is a common tactic for allergy sufferers, grass can be hard to avoid. Luckily there are many ways to reduce allergy symptoms and manage your allergies.
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 and Florida, but grass season is at its worst 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:
- Kentucky Blue
- Sweet Vernal
Many regions of the United States have a predominance of one or more types of these grasses. In order to know exactly what grasses you’re specifically allergic to, you can get an allergy test.
What are the symptoms of grass allergies?
Grass allergies bring on the typical allergy symptoms, which are:
- Runny nose (Nasal drainage)
- Stuffy nose (Nasal congestion)
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth
- Swelling around the eyes
In addition to the usual suspects of grass allergy symptoms, it’s also common for more severe grass allergy sufferers to experience:
It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you have sneezing, coughing, headaches, or a runny nose. Congestion makes breathing difficult at night, causing you to wake up early or struggle to get to sleep in the first place. 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.
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 air flow also could dry out your throat and make it feel sore.
How do I prevent symptoms caused by a grass allergy?
Here are 10 ways you can reduce symptoms from grass allergy:
- 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 easily add different 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 or pollen-free gravel or rocks.
- Bathe and shampoo your hair every day before bed to remove pollen and keep it out of your bed.
- Wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
- 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.
Treating your grass allergy
Short term relief
There are many things you can do to improve symptoms. Over the counter medications won’t solve the underlying issue but they will relieve your symptoms for 24-48 hours.
Saline Nasal Sprays and Rinses
Nasal saline sprays are available over-the-counter and involve spraying saline, or salt water, 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 of 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 prior to use.
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 really want to tackle your grass allergies 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 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 own 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 of allergic reactions to them. Like allergy drops, the length of treatment is three to five years.