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The Pollen Section

When Grass Attacks

GrassFor those with grass allergy, a lush lawn can be the bane of summer.

Grass allergy is one of the most common pollen allergies, up there with the birch tree and ragweed. In the central and northern United States and Canada, grass generally pollinates in May, June and July.

If the Kleenex box is your constant companion during these months, chances are, you find trouble in the turf.

SYMPTOMS

As with all pollen allergies, those who react to grass suffer from allergic rhinitis, commonly know as hay fever. Typically you’ll sneeze, feel congestion and have itchy eyes and noses. The symptoms may not be as severe as they are for tree pollen allergy or ragweed allergy, because the pollen counts often aren’t as high. On the down side, grasses pollinate for a longer period of time, so you’re bound to have many uncomfortable days.

Those contending with a grass allergy also tend to have more symptoms of conjunctivitis – that is, itchy, watery eyes – than those with tree or ragweed allergy, according to Dr. Harold Kim, an allergist based in Kitchener, Ontario and an assistant professor in the department of clinical immunology and allergy at McMaster University.

“It’s also more likely that they get swelling of the tissues around the eyes,” he says.

Although symptoms are usually limited to the nose and eyes, some who are severely allergic to grass and will get hives upon contact with its pollen. In the most dangerous cases, they can experience a reaction that is close to anaphylaxis.

“I’ve seen it a couple of times,” says Dr. Donald Stark, a Vancouver allergist. “They fall and they try to get the soccer ball, or in baseball, they’re sliding through the grass. That can cause contact hives, and I’ve actually seen almost anaphylactic reactions because they get enough antigen absorbed through the scraped skin.”

If you’ve had such a reaction, Stark recommends asking your allergist to prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector.

Next: How to cope with grass allergy

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.