Grass Allergy

 

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Father giving son antihistamine nasal spray while in a field of grass, bushes, and trees.

What is grass allergy?

A grass allergy is actually a grass pollen allergy. Grass grows in most parts of the United States, but there are different types of grass. Each type has its own unique pollen.

Grass is primarily divided as northern or southern, depending on the regions and climates it grows best in. Some of the common northern grasses include:

  • Timothy
  • Kentucky Blue
  • Johnson
  • Rye
  • Fescue

Common southern grasses include:

  • Bahia
  • Bermuda
  • Centipede
  • St. Augustine
  • Zoysia

Any of these may cause grass pollen allergy.  Just because you are allergic to one type of grass does not mean you are allergic to all grass.

Image of various types of grass

What is grass pollen?

Grass pollen is a fine powder-like substance. It consists of microspores produced by male parts of the grass. This pollen travels in the wind to fertilize the female parts of the grass. Grass pollen, like ragweed pollen, is very lightweight and easily spreads. This makes it much easier to breathe in and trigger allergy symptoms.

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Talking About the Weather

What's the spring allergy outlook where you live? Will sudden temperature changes trigger an asthma flare? Weather can play a key role in asthma and allergy symptoms and flu transmission. We partnered with Weather Trends International to provide weather forecasting and analysis for people with asthma and allergies.

When is grass allergy season?

Grass allergy season is at its worst when grass is pollinating. For the northern regions of the United States, this is primarily in the spring and early summer (April to June). For southern regions of the country, some grasses may cause year-round allergies.

What are grass allergy symptoms?

Symptoms of grass allergy involve the nose, eyes, mouth or skin. Grass allergy may also trigger asthma symptoms. People with grass allergy may experience:

 

  • Sneezing, and runny, stuffy, or itchy nose
  • Red, watery, itchy, or puffy eyes
  • Rash, hives, or welts (most common with direct skin contact to grass)
  • Cough, chest tightness, congestion, wheezing or shortness of breath if asthma is triggered by grass allergy
Image of older woman with itchy eyes, holding a tissue, because of allergies.

Is there testing for grass allergy?

Testing for grass allergy is performed by an allergist. This is done through a skin prick or a blood test. This can help to determine which grass or grasses to which you are allergic. The allergist will interpret the test results and discuss treatment options.

Photo of person's arm with numbers and marks to determine the allergy sensitivity. It's a type of allergy testing.

What are the options for grass allergy treatment?

Treatment options for grass allergy may include over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines and anti-inflammatory nasal sprays. Ideally, you should start these about two weeks before you typically develop seasonal allergy symptoms.

Immunotherapy is available for certain types of grass allergy. This involves introducing a small amount of the allergen into your body to help you become less sensitive to it. This can be done through subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), or allergy shots, which are given at an allergist’s office.

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is the other kind of immunotherapy. SLIT is a small tablet that dissolves under your tongue. The first dose is given in your allergist’s office, but then you can take the tablet at home.

Mother and daughter each blowing their nose with tissues while sitting on grass. There are trees in the background.

How can I reduce symptoms of grass allergy?

Since grass is so prevalent around the United States, it is nearly impossible to avoid it altogether. However, there are things you can do to reduce or minimize symptoms, including:

  • Premedicate with an antihistamine and/or corticosteroid nasal spray two hours prior to allergen exposure.
  • For eye allergies, use eye drops as needed.
  • Avoid grass pollen – pollens are normally highest during peak months (April to June), so limit time outside during these times. Pollen is normally worse in the morning or early afternoon and on windy days, so if you must be outside, calm evenings may be best.
  • Shower and change your clothes when you come inside.
  • Keep lawns and other grasses cut short.
  • If you must cut grass, but have allergy to fresh cut grass, wear an allergy mask.
  • Monitor pollen counts and plan activities accordingly.
  • Do not dry clothes outside.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Wipe pets off after time outside and bathe frequently.
  • Take off your shoes at the door.

Some people only experience allergy symptoms to fresh cut grass. You may want to consider having someone else cut your grass.

Are there grass pollen allergy foods to avoid?

If you have a grass allergy, you may want to avoid certain fruits and vegetables that are botanically related to grass. You may develop allergy symptoms if you eat these fruits and vegetables, especially when raw. This reaction is known as oral allergy syndrome.

Foods related to grass include:

  • Peach
  • Melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)
  • Celery
  • Orange
  • Tomato
  • White potato

A study in children found that some kids with grass allergy are also sensitive to wheat. There may be cross-reactivity between grass, wheat and other grains. This does not always mean people develop allergy symptoms to wheat. However, if allergy symptoms emerge when eating wheat products, it’s important to see an allergist. 

Hay Allergy

 

Image of bales of hay on a field of grass with the sun rising in the background.

What is an allergy to hay?

An allergy to hay is an allergy to the grass eaten by many farm animals.

To understand what causes someone to have a hay allergy, it is important to understand what is in hay. Hay is not always a single component, but rather it may contain several things. 

Hay comes from a variety of grasses and other materials. The composition may depend on the purpose of the hay or animal it is meant to feed. Grasses are a common hay ingredient, including: Timothy, rye, brome, fescue, Bermuda and orchard grasses. Legumes, such as alfalfa or clovers, are also often used in hay. Hay may also contain other nutritious plant materials.

Most hay is meant for animals (horses, cows) to eat. It is meant to provide nutrients. 

And what about those hay bales and hayrides in the fall? Well, normally straw, not hay, is used for these fun fall activities. So “hay bales” are actually “straw bales” and are made up of stems (and not seeds). While straw may come from grasses, it may also come from by-products of cereal grains like wheat, barley and oats.

Image of a boy feeding a horse some hay over the fence. The father is looking on and smiling.

What are hay allergy symptoms?

Some hay allergy symptoms include:

  • runny nose
  • itchy eyes, mouth or skin
  • sneezing,
  • stuffy nose
  • hives or skin rash
  • fatigue

Hay allergy is managed and treated the same way as other types of environmental allergies.

What is in hay that can trigger allergy symptoms?

Allergens in hay may include:

  • hay grass, such as timothy grass or other types of horse hay
  • dust mites
  • mold
  • other outdoor allergens (pollens from trees, grass, weeds)
  • preservatives, herbicides or other chemicals

How do you know what is causing allergy symptoms from hay?

For some people, that may take a little bit of detective work. Grass allergies are common, so that may be a starting point. While pollens found in the grass in hay can trigger hay allergy, other allergens present can also trigger allergy symptoms. If you think you may be allergic to something in hay, make an appointment with an allergist.

Image of a man holding a tissue to his nose because of hay allergies.

Does hay fever and hay allergy mean the same thing?

Hay allergy and hay fever are not the same thing. The term hay fever is a bit of a misnomer and is formally known as allergic rhinitis. People with allergic rhinitis may have a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or itchy red and watery eyes. Allergic rhinitis is often caused by grass allergies.

People with hay allergy may experience allergic rhinitis, but they may also experience other allergy symptoms.

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Are there other conditions that can look like or complicate allergies

There are other types of conditions that can mimic allergies, but are different than an IgE-mediated allergy. The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment can vary depending upon the condition. Here are some of them.

Food-related conditions that can have symptoms similar to food allergies include:

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