How do you know if you have grass allergies?

Grass Allergies
If you have the following symptoms during the summer months:

  • Constant sneezing
  • A runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Itchy nose and eyes
  • Red, watering eyes

then you may well be suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis caused by grass allergies. If your symptoms come on earlier in the year, it is more likely that trees cause your allergy and if later in the year, then weeds are likely the culprits.

Grass allergy is an allergic reaction to the pollen in grasses, trees or weeds that causes the symptoms. The immune system causes the release of a chemical called histamine, which triggers hayfever symptoms. It is actually specific proteins within the pollen grains that cause the allergic response in grass allergies (and they are harmless to someone who is not allergic). Grass pollen allergy is more common than tree or weed pollen allergy (though some people do have an allergy to one or more types of pollen).

Pollen grains are very light and are easily dispersed by wind. Thus pollen grains readily become and stay airborne. Once they are airborne they can easily be inhaled or enter the body through contact with the eyes or ingestion. Insects generally disperse a flowering plant’s pollen and such species do not usually pose a grass allergy problem.

When is Grass Allergy Season?

Grass allergies are most severe during the grass pollen season, which is between the start of April and the end of July – the exact start and end time depends upon how severe a winter precedes it. The amount of pollen produced on a particular day depends upon temperature, hours of sunshine and the weather. Keep an eye on the pollen forecast (two good sites are: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/health/public/pollen-forecast and http://www.worcester.ac.uk/discover/pollen-forecast.html) and plan your activities accordingly. Moreover, some grasses tend to release their pollen in the morning, others in the afternoon. But if it is damp, pollen is released a bit later, once the water has evaporated. Also, pollen grains are often carried high up into the air, but 'rain down' again when the air cools down after sunset, forming what is known as a 'pollen shower'. In other words, during the grass pollen season, there is always some grass pollen in the air.

There are thousands of different grass species in the world, of which around 200 are native to the UK. The grass species that are most associated with grass allergies are:

  • Foxtail
  • Vernal
  • Oat grass
  • Dogstail
  • Fescue
  • Rye
  • Timothy
  • Meadow

What can I do about my Grass Allergies?

If you do suffer with grass allergy, then try wearing wraparound sunglasses during the grass pollen season and consider installing air conditioning in your car, while keeping the windows closed. Obviously, avoid mowing the lawn and try to avoid picnicking or walking in grassy areas. If you have pollen allergies, holidays in seaside resorts or high mountain locations are best, because such areas are relatively pollen-free.

Of course, pollen gets indoors too. Grass pollen can come inside on clothes, hair and pet fur. So if you have severe grass allergies, it’s a good idea to change when you come in from work, wash your hair and keep pets well-brushed. Windows should be kept shut during peak pollen season to keep grass pollen out of your rooms. Also, do not dry clothes outside as they pick up grass pollen from the air which is then transferred indoors.

If you are not sure whether you have a grass allergy or whether the grass is the problem, ask your doctor to refer you for a skin prick or blood test which can identify sensitivity to any specific allergens. While avoiding allergens is the mainstay of managing an allergic condition, like grass allergy, in practice this can never be 100 per cent effective, so it is important to also have some antihistamine medication to hand to relieve and control your symptoms.  There is also a line of effective but inexpensive air purifiers that will help you control you grass allergy symptoms.  We would recommend any of the Blueair air purifiers for grass allergies.