The grass is America’s largest irrigated crop! About 2% of the land area in the country is filled with grass. Grass can be found in the form of lawns, turfs, and wild weeds.
Grass allergy is one of the most common pollen allergies diagnosed in the country.
People are not allergic to grass. They end up being allergic to grass pollen that is scattered all around the area where grasses are grown.
In the United States, grass pollination happens in late spring (April to June). This is the time people experience extreme allergic reactions to grass.
Symptoms of Grass Allergy
Grass allergy reactions are usually restricted to the eyes and nose. Some of the common symptoms are:
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Swelling around the eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Redness and pain around the eyes
- Watery eyes and nose
If you have an extreme grass allergy and are in direct contact with grass, you can develop hives in the skin too. Hives are bumps or raised surfaces on the skin that cause itch, redness, and pain.
Prolonged exposure to grass can cause anaphylaxis (breathing difficulty and shock).
Americans grow two major types of grasses - northern and southern. Here are some of the popular grass types that cause allergies.
- Bermuda grass
- Timothy grass
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Sweet vernal grass
Genetics and Grass Allergy
The IL2 gene produces the interleukin 2 (IL2) protein. This protein is important for controlling the body’s immune response.
rs2069772 and Grass Allergy
rs2069772 is an SNP in the IL2 gene. The C allele of this SNP increases the risk of developing seasonal allergic rhinitis, including grass allergy.
The Leucine-Rich Repeat-Containing 32 (LRRC32) gene produces a protein called GARP that activates pro-inflammatory cells of the immune system. Certain genetic variations of this gene can overstimulate these cells and result in allergic inflammation.
The T allele of the rs2155219 SNP of this gene is associated with higher risks of developing grass pollen allergy.
Non-genetic Influences On Grass Allergy
High pollen count - When the grass pollen count is high, you are at higher risk for developing unpleasant reactions.
Extended pollination season - Generally, grass varieties have specific pollination times. Because of factors like increased global temperature and changes in climate, grasses can pollinate all through the year, causing grass allergies.
Climatic conditions - Grass pollens spread more during hot, windy, and dry climates. Such climatic conditions increase the risk of developing grass allergies.
External irritants - People who already have grass allergies have sensitive nasal passages and can be triggered by external irritants like:
- Tobacco smoke
- Aerosol smoke
- Air pollution
- Dust mites
- Wood smoke
Smoking - When people with existing grass allergies take up smoking, it makes their symptoms worse. Chronic smokers who have grass allergies are very risky for developing extreme symptoms like anaphylaxis.
Insects - Insects present on grassy surfaces can move around and enter houses, bringing with them grass pollen. This is especially true in homes with large outdoor gardens or lawns.
Recommendations To Improve Symptoms Of Grass Allergy
Check local pollen forecast - Check the local pollen forecast before you plan a day outdoors. If the pollen count is high, avoid going out much. This will prevent flaring up of the symptoms of grass allergies.
Mow your lawns really short - Unkept and tall grasses release more pollen grains than short and well-maintained lawns. If you have a lawn, ask someone to mow it for you very short at regular intervals.
Keep the windows closed - During the grass pollen season (April to June), close the windows and main door and use certified allergy-friendly centralized air conditioners to prevent the risks of grass allergy flare ups.
Take a bath and change clothes after a day spent outdoors - If you are spending time outdoors, come back home for a quick bath and change your clothes right away. These help prevent grass pollen from entering your nose or mouth.
Wear preventive accessories - Wear preventive accessories like hats, sunglasses, and full-sleeved clothes to avoid getting in contact with grass pollen. If your body reacts severely to grass pollen, you will be safer if you wear face masks when you step out.
Medications - Antihistamine over the counter drugs can help treat milder symptoms of grass allergy. Nasal drops or sprays are also available to curb the allergic reaction. If you have severe symptoms of the condition, prescription antihistamine drugs can help.
Some people get allergy shots to bring down the intensity of the condition. You will be injected with mild doses of grass pollen once every few weeks. This exposes the immune system to the allergen and makes it less sensitive.
- The grass is the most irrigated crop in the United States and is also one of the most common causes of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Grass allergy is a condition that causes allergic reactions to the pollen grains released from the grass.
- Grass pollen allergy affects the eyes and the nose and results in conjunctivitis like symptoms and swelling of nasal passage, eyes, and itch and pain.
- Genetic variations of genes like IL2, ABL2, LRRC32, and DNAH5 all cause an increased risk for developing grass pollen allergy.
- A higher pollen count in the atmosphere increases the risks of flaring up of grass allergy.
- Extended pollination season, windy climate, and global warming are all changes that cause grass allergy flare-ups.
- People with existing grass allergies find their symptoms getting worse when they come in contact with wood smoke, cigarette smoke, dust mites, and aerosol smoke.
- Using antihistamine drugs, considering allergy shots, covering the face with a mask, and keeping the house closed during the grass pollution period can help deal with the condition.
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