Allergen of the month: grass
For the next installment of our Allergen of the Month series, we’re taking a close look at grass pollen and grass allergies.
If grass pollen is a source of allergies for you, you’re in good company. Around 400 million people world-wide have a grass pollen allergy. What’s more, in many parts of the U.S., seasonal allergies are triggered by grass, as grasses of all kinds start to release pollen into the air, causing pollen to be carried by the wind for miles.
• 1,400 species of grasses exist in the United States, but only a handful cause serious grass allergies including Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky, orchard, redtop, rye, sweet vernal, and timothy grasses.
• You may be allergic to just one type of grass pollen, or to many.
• Because grass pollen comes from a feathery flower that grows at the top of the shoot, most types of grass release pollen only when they grow tall.
• Perennial rye grass and tall fescue are better for allergy-sufferers, because they don't flower and release pollen until they're 12 inches or taller.
• Researchers at the University of Vienna are developing a vaccine for grass pollen allergies.
• Giant bamboo, which can grow up to 151 feet tall, is the largest variety of grass.
Grass allergies by region
In northern regions of the U.S., grasses usually pollinate in the late spring or early summer. But in southern areas, grasses may pollinate throughout many seasons, potentially triggering symptoms throughout the year. Bermuda grass, one of the more allergy-triggering types of grass, is sensitive to cold temperatures and, thus, is a leading lawn choice in southern regions. In cooler climates, resistance to disease and insects help make rye grass a favorite.
How to help grass allergies
• Keep your lawn mowed, since shorter grass is less likely to release pollen.
• Wind carries pollen in the air, especially when the weather is dry and sunny, so try to stay indoors on those occasions—and close the windows.
• Wear a mask when you garden.
• Re-landscape your lawn with allergy-safe options such as ivy or Spanish moss, or choose plants that will thrive in the sun, soil and water conditions typical of your region.
• Remove outdoor clothes before entering your home.