For many people, allergies are a seasonal nightmare. And believe it or not, the innocuous-looking grass we see on lawns everywhere is a big part of the allergy problem.
While “hay fever” is used as a broad term to describe an allergic reaction to pollen in the air, grass allergies are the most common. What makes it more difficult is that grass is so ubiquitous; when grasses produce pollen, it becomes inescapable. Beyond the irritation that comes with inhaling grass pollen, which spreads in the spring and early summer, many people have experienced the discomfort of itchy skin after making contact with grass. And yes, even the itchy skin is related to grass allergies.
Natural Grass: The Powerful Pollen Producer
When you think about pollen producers, you probably envision some of the usual suspects; flowering plants like chrysanthemums, daisies and goldenrods; weeds like ragweed and sagebrush; and trees like willows, sycamores, birches, olives and palms. However, the majority of hay fever sufferers are experiencing reactions to grass. By some estimates, as much as 95% of people who experience hay fever are allergic to grass particles found in the air.
Blowing in the Wind
When allowed to grow tall enough, grass will sprout flowers. Though these flowers don’t look terribly threatening, they are. Grass relies on the wind to transport its pollen, so it produces massive quantities of pollen that is designed to take flight in the wind, travel for several miles, and hopefully pollenate elsewhere. The pollen is fine and powdery, so it’s unlikely that you will see it in the air, but it doesn’t take much of it to cause allergies to flare up.
Maintaining grass at low heights is a good way to control pollen production (though not 100% efficient because some grasses will release grains into the wind at any height), but there is a downside to it: mowing grass can actually release many allergens into the air. Some lawnmowers, particularly side-discharging mowers, can release pollen into the wind. Similarly, using lawn blowers can also stir pollen into the air.
Some of the most problematic grasses are the following:
- Timothy grass
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Johnson grass
- Bermuda grass
- Redtop grass
- Orchard grass
- Sweet vernal grass
If you have ever experienced an itchy sensation on your skin after sliding or rolling around on grass, chances are you have also experienced a grass allergy. The same grains of pollen that cause eye irritation and respiratory problems when inhaled can also react to skin when touched. The aptly-named blades of grass are topped with tiny barbs that can cause microscopic scratches on one’s skin. The scratches and pollen result in itching, atopic dermatitis (eczema) and urticaria (hives).
What Can Be Done?
There is a long list of things that you can do to avoid dealing with grass pollen, including:
- Maintaining a short lawn
- Using allergy medication
- Avoiding exposure during windy days and early morning
- Occasionally wearing masks
For a homeowner with allergies, another viable alternative to grass lawns is to install artificial grass. Synthetic turfs do not produce any pollen, so respiratory problems are not an issue. It doesn’t have the top barbs, so itching is also eliminated. In addition, artificial grass doesn’t grow, so concerns about allergens being kicked up by lawn mowers into the air are eliminated. With an artificial lawn, homeowners with allergies are freer to enjoy their yards without getting the sniffles.
June is a notoriously difficult month for people with allergies. Pollen will always be a problem for allergy sufferers and many of the pollen producers cannot be eliminated. However, replacing natural grass with an artificial lawn is one of the easiest steps towards creating a happier environment.
If you would like to learn more about installing artificial grass, check out the Do-It-Yourself Easy Install Guide.