An introduction to grass pollen
Hayfever occurs when the immune system perceives pollen as a threat, releasing excessive amounts of histamine to protect sensitive openings such as the ears, nose and throat.
The main factor causing this reaction is grass pollen. Grass pollen typically emerges in the middle of May until the end of July and, for 90% of hayfever sufferers, it is the main cause behind their symptoms.
How can I tell if grass pollen is responsible for my allergies?
There are three different types of pollen commonly associated with Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis; grass pollen, tree pollen and weed pollen.
If you can determine which type of pollen it is that is triggering your allergies, then you can take bigger steps towards combatting your hayfever symptoms. It would be worth going to see your doctor, as they can perform certain tests which can conclude which pollen allergy it is that you have.
- Prick test: The prick test is not as intimidating as you might think, although it does involve needles. Your doctor will inject a small amount of allergens just below the surface of your skin which should cause a reaction. The doctors can then determine from the types of allergen you are reacting to, what pollen allergy you are suffering from
- Blood test: Blood tests are not used as often as the prick test, and normally only if you have an existing skin condition or are on medication. Your doctor will send a sample of your blood away to the laboratory, where testing will be performed. These tests should tell your doctor what allergy you have, and they will normally let you know a few days after the initial blood test.
Types of grass pollen
There are different types of grass pollen, from Timothy grass pollen, one of the most common grass types in Europe to rye grass pollen, and each type of grass pollen can trigger an allergic reaction. However, if you are allergic to one type of grass pollen, you are likely to be allergic to all of them as the different species can cross-react.
- · Perennial ryegrass: Perennial rye is an extremely durable grass commonly found in parts of Europe and North Africa, and it normally causes the worst allergic reactions. It is usually used to reseed grasslands or it can be grown around parks and other urban areas. Rye grass seeds are also sometimes used in certain types of cereals, so it might be worth noting which cereals so that you can avoid triggering an oral allergic reaction
- · Timothy grass: Timothy grass is widespread throughout Europe, in fact it can probably be found in your lawn right now. This particular type of grass pollinates in early autumn, which might explain why some of your symptoms seem to linger beyond the hayfever season, and it sometimes cultivated for hay
- · Orchard grass: As you might have guessed from the name, orchard grass can usually be found growing around fruit trees, such as common apple trees. Orchard grass pollinates between April and July, and sometimes symptoms induced by this particular type of grass prove easier to cope with than other grass pollen reactions
- · Bermuda grass: Bermuda is commonly found in North American, usually grown as a lawn grass due it its versatility and ability to survive in dry climates. It normally pollinates between April and August and has been linked to eye problems, such as conjunctivitis, and can be known to stimulate this symptom in hayfever
- · Kentucky bluegrass: Oddly enough, Kentucky bluegrass is not originally native to Kentucky. It was introduced to America by European colonials and has been a firm fixture in that part of the world ever since. Bluegrass is usually used in pastures or sometimes as turf, and pollinates briefly between May and July.
How to avoid grass pollen
It can often feel as though grass pollen is everywhere and unfortunately it usually is. There is no definitive way of avoiding grass pollen forever, not unless you feel like relocating your family home to the Sahara desert.
However, there are a number of steps you can take to minimalize your contact with grass pollen, reducing your symptoms and any further irritations.
- Keep an eye on the pollen count: The pollen count is normally higher early in the mornings and later on in the afternoon before sunset. Keeping an eye on the pollen count can let you know when it’s safest to roam out and about and when you would be better off staying indoors. Check our free A.Vogel Pollen Count page for the pollen count across the UK and in your local area.
- Get someone else to mow the lawn: If you’re allergic to grass pollen, then the last thing you should be doing is cutting the grass, spreading pollen here, there and everywhere. If lawn really must be mown, then find a willing victim to do it for you or consider wearing a protective mask to keep pollen away from your eyes, mouth and nose
- Consider your garden: If you suffer from grass allergies then it might be time to question why you tolerate its presence in your garden. It might seem like too much hassle, but changing your lawn could save you a lot of grief in the long run
- Wash yourself regularly: You may feel as though you are doing a good job of keeping yourself clean, and in most respects you probably are, however pollen can stick to your skin, your hair and your clothes. If you wash regularly, especially after venturing outdoors, it will help to prevent any further irritation and might reduce your hayfever symptoms
- Wash your pets: Trying to get your Labrador to stay still long enough to wash him might seem like a biweekly struggle, but in fact you should be washing him more. Pets roam in and out of the house all day long, dragging pollen particles with them wherever they go. It might seem like too much effort, but washing the menagerie regularly is definitely preferable to the sneezing, sniffling and coughing that can accompany hayfever
- Just wash everything: Pollen sticks to everything; your carpet, curtains, clothes, hard surfaces and bed linen. This might mean spending more time with your vacuum cleaner but eliminating pollen from your household environment will reduce your hayfever symptoms and not aggravate your allergies as much
- Don’t hang your washing outside: On a hot sunny day, it might seem like the logical conclusion, but don’t hang your bed linen or clothes out on the line. This just gives them the opportunity they need to soak up all the pollen being dispersed through your garden and can lead to irritating your skin and exacerbating your symptoms
- Watch what you eat: Grass pollen can react with foods that share similar proteins, leading to what is known as an oral allergic reaction. It would be best to keep foods such as celery and oranges off the menu. If you want to read more about what you should be eating, visit our Diet and Hayfever page
- Plan your trips carefully: If you’re thinking of vacationing during the hayfever season, it might be worth considering a seaside resort instead of a caravan holiday. The pollen count around the beach is generally lower than it is further inland, giving you some much needed relief from your allergies
- Wear sunglasses: If it’s sunny enough outside, there’s a chance you already have these in your arsenal. Wraparound sunglasses are excellent at protecting your eyes from strong UV lights, but they also stop your eyes from coming into contact with pollen particles, keeping you safe from any eye problems that could have occurred.
If you are suffering from hayfever, then it is important that you try and treat your symptoms as soon as possible. The condition affects approximately 20% of the UK, so there are plenty of herbal, home and conventional treatments out there to relieve your symptoms.
- · Home remedies: Home remedies such as honey and lemon juice have been used for years to ease sore throats and congestion. If you still feel bunged up, then it might be worth having a hot shower or a long bath as steam can thin down the mucous membranes, relieving congestion in the nasal passages.
- · Herbal remedies: If you are suffering from severe hayfever symptoms, then it might be worth trying our Pollinosan Hayfever Relief Tablets. Pollinosan is made up of seven different types of herbs and has been known to ease all hayfever symptoms without causing the drowsiness associated with conventional anti-histamines. It might also be worth using the tablets alongside Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray, which works by cleansing the nose of allergens such as pollen.
- · Conventional medicines: The most common conventional remedy for hayfever is anti-histamine medication. These can be bought over the counter, but can cause drowsiness, restricting your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. Your doctor may also prescribe steroids for you, but these should not be taken for longer than ten days, otherwise they can trigger a range of unpleasant side-effects.