As the mowing begins, so do the allergies

Back in the 1980s, we had a bit of a scare when the husband was rushed to the hospital after being stung by a honeybee.

We knew he had previous minor reactions to honeybee stings, so we were prepared with a hypodermic needle filled with epinephrine. After seven years of allergy treatments, it still isn’t known if he has conquered that allergy, so to be on the safe side we keep an auto-injector, brand name EpiPen, on hand throughout the season.

Previous to the bee sting reaction, things were fine, but the following year something began to change. It was as though the reaction to the bee sting awoke something in his system that was previously dormant. Suddenly more allergies began to appear.

The worst is grass, which is unfortunate because one of his favorite things to do each summer is mow. He is usually the first in neighborhood to break out the lawn tractor and is often seen mowing two to three times a week. What used to take two to three hours from start to finish now has to be done in short bursts over several days because allergy symptoms chase him back inside.

I am not allowed to mow. He tells me I don’t know the patterns or the routine, although I suspect he just doesn’t want anyone else using his beloved tractor. I won’t distinguish a brand name, other than to say it is green and yellow. He hasn’t yet taken to wearing a protective mask while mowing, although it hasn’t been ruled out.

Regardless, we know that it’s all about the pollen and when it comes to spring allergies, grass pollen is the worst offender. This year, I hoped to get at least a fair warning by downloading an application to my phone from Web M.D. that monitors specific allergens. I entered grass pollen into the program, however, the warning I get each day tells me the pollen count is still in the moderate range for grasses. (Tree pollen has been high for at least the past month). For some, a moderate reading is all it takes. (If you don’t have a phone where you can download apps, The Weather Channel also offers pollen alerts on their television channel and on their website

Grasses are members of the family Poaceae and there are more than 8,000 species of grass throughout the world. Not all of them produce the allergens that affect so many hayfever sufferers. For example, corn is a grass, as are wheat and rice. In addition, these and many other types of grasses, including native field grass varieties, generally only produce pollen once during a growing season. Lawn grasses, however, can send pollen into the air from May to October, although spring is the worst.

In our yard, we don’t have to look closely at the grass to see the seed stalks forming. In some people, just touching blades of grass can result in skin reactions including a rash and itching. When the pollen is released into the air, it lands on our skin, in our eyes, we inhale it through our nose and mouth and it can get into our eyes.

Basically, pollen that is carried by the wind is the main cause of seasonal allergies. Plants that utilize insects to spread their pollen, such as roses, many ornamental flowers and most garden vegetables, aren’t the offenders when it comes to hayfever sufferers.

Pollen allergy symptoms are generally itchy, watery eyes, a tickle in the throat, runny nose and in some cases, difficulty breathing. Testing by an doctor who specializes in allergies can determine which pollen is causing the symptoms. By knowing what is causing the reaction and finding out the offenders’ pollen season, allergy sufferers can prepare.

Stay indoors and run an air conditioner. Seal cracks and seams around windows and doors and keep them closed when pollen counts are high.

If, like the husband, you are allergic to grass, wear long pants and sleeves while mowing and don’t rule out a dust mask or particulate respirator. It could make your life easier, and you won’t have to give up mowing.