If you suffer from an allergy, you are certainly not alone. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States each year. Many of these allergies are outdoor allergies that return during certain seasons.
These types of allergies are often triggered by pollen, which is a powdery substance found in plants that is made up of microscopic grains. If you have an outdoor allergy to a certain plant, you’re not actually allergic to the plant itself. Rather, you’re allergic to the pollen that the plant produces.
One such pollen that you may be allergic to is the pollen that comes from certain grasses. Since grass pollinates in the late spring, which is usually April through early June, this time period is when those who suffer from grass allergies notice their symptoms. In the state of Illinois, grass pollen allergy season is typically May through June but can appear earlier depending on the year and weather. Grass season overlaps with tree pollen season whereas most weeds pollinate in the late summer.
If you want to know more about grass allergies, here are the answers to five frequently asked questions.
1. What Kinds of Grasses Trigger Allergies?
There are hundreds of different kinds of grasses. Some cause more allergy problems than others. DuPage County in Illinois is home to four common grasses that often trigger allergies. These grasses include:
- Common timothy
- Large sweet vernal grass
- Orchard grass
- Perennial rye grass
The above-mentioned grasses are well-known for causing allergy problems, but you may be allergic to pollen from other types of grasses as well.
2. How Do I Know If I’m Allergic to Grass?
Grass allergies cause symptoms that are normal for most types of pollen allergies. Some of these symptoms include:
- Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose
- Itchy eyes, ears, or mouth
- Red, watery, or swollen eyes
- Sneezing or coughing
- Increased mucous
As with most pollen allergies, grass allergies can affect the sinuses, as well as the respiratory tract. Less commonly, some people get a skin rash after being exposed to certain grasses. Others experience headaches, and for those with asthma, grass allergies can trigger an attack.
If you’re still not sure whether or not you have grass allergies but you are experiencing some of these symptoms, one way to know for sure is through allergy testing. The two types of allergy testing include an allergy skin test and a blood test.
During an allergy skin test, the liquid forms of different grasses are applied to the skin. If a red itchy bump appears after about 10 to 15 minutes, then you know that you have a grass allergy. During a blood test, the doctors draws your blood and sends it to a lab for a grass allergy analysis. A skin test is a more sensitive way to identify the presence of an allergy.
3. How Can I Manage Grass Allergy Symptoms?
The first step in management is to confirm the diagnosis of an allergy through allergy skin testing as there can be other triggers for spring time symptoms, such as infection. Avoidance is the best treatment for an allergy but this can be difficult when it comes to pollen.
Here are some other ways to reduce grass exposure and symptoms:
- Stay indoors on high pollen days and keep door and windows closed.
- Keep the grass on your lawn short, as this reduces its ability to release pollen.
- Take a bath and wash your hair before bedtime to remove pollen from your body and keep it out of your bed.
- Wash all of your bedding at least once a week.
- Change your clothes right away after spending time outdoors.
- Take off your shoes before going inside, and clean your floors at least once a week.
If you have pets, you will also want to ensure that they don’t bring grass pollen inside with them after they spend time outdoors. Always wipe them off before letting them back inside, and bathe and groom them on a regular basis. Keeping them out of bedrooms and off of furniture during pollen season can also help.
4. Can Grass Allergies Be Treated?
If you suffer from grass allergies, you will most likely have them for the rest of your life. Even if you do your best to manage the symptoms, you might still be miserable during grass allergy season. Thankfully, you can find over-the-counter and prescribed treatment options for grass allergies.
Some of the most common grass allergy treatment options include:
- Saline nasal sprays and nasal steroid sprays
- Nasal and oral antihistamines
- Steroid pills and steroid injections
- Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots)
Before you start any type of treatment for grass allergies, talk to an allergist.
5. Who Can Help Diagnose and Treat Grass Allergies?
An allergist is a specialist that diagnoses and treats allergies, including glass allergies. With four convenient locations including Naperville, including Downers Grove, Elmhurst, or Plainfield, Oak Brook Allergists offers testing and treatment for grass allergies. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.