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Grass Pollen Allergy

Grass pollen is a common trigger for allergies -- and symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and cough. If you might be allergic to grasses, here's what you should know.

Grass Pollen Allergy Basics

Grasses tend to start growing in the early spring. In the late spring and early summer, they release pollen into the air. The wind can carry it for miles.

Grass pollen is fine and powdery. You may not see pollen in the air. But if you're allergic, your body may react even to small amounts.

There are hundreds of types of grasses. Types that often trigger allergies include:

  • Bermuda grass
  • Johnson grass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Orchard grass
  • Redtop grass
  • Rye grass
  • Sweet vernal grass
  • Timothy grass

You may be allergic to only one type of grass or to many.

What Makes Grass Pollen Allergy Worse?

  • Dry, windy days. Wind carries pollen in the air, especially when it's dry and sunny. When it's cold or damp, pollen counts are usually lower.
  • Eating certain foods. If you're allergic to grasses, your allergy symptoms are more likely to be triggered by particular fruits and vegetables that have proteins like those in pollen. Celery, melons, peaches, oranges, and tomatoes may trigger an itchy skin rash.
  • Unmowed grass. Most types of grass release pollen only when they grow tall. The pollen comes from a feathery flower that grows at the top. If you keep your lawn mowed, the grass is less likely to release pollen.

However, some grasses, like Bermuda grass, can still release pollen when kept short.

Controlling Grass Pollen Allergy

  • Testing. The only way to know if you really are allergic to grasses is to get tested. Once you find out what's triggering your allergies, you can better control your exposure.
  • Avoiding triggers. Take steps to limit your exposure to grass pollen. Close windows on windy, summer days. Wear a mask when gardening.
  • Changing out your lawn. It may seem drastic, but if you are sure that grasses in your yard are causing your symptoms, you could remove them. Replacing them with bunch grasses -- like perennial rye grass and tall fescue -- could help. These grasses don't flower and release pollen until they're 12 inches or taller. Other allergy-safe options for your yard include ivy and Irish moss.
  • Treatment. Both OTC and prescription medications can help ease or prevent allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy (allergy shots or oral tablets or drops) is another option for reducing -- and sometimes ending -- grass allergies.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 29, 2012

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