Meadow Foxtail: Allergy Symptoms, Treatment, and Immunotherapy Options

Wyndly Care Team
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Is creeping foxtail the same as meadow foxtail?

No, Creeping Foxtail and Meadow Foxtail are not the same. Creeping Foxtail, scientifically known as Alopecurus arundinaceus, is a high-yielding perennial grass. Meadow Foxtail, also known as Alopecurus pratensis, is a grass species native to Europe and Asia with a similar appearance.

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What Is Meadow Foxtail?

Meadow Foxtail is a perennial grass species native to Europe and Asia. Known scientifically as Alopecurus pratensis, it's recognized for its distinctive cylindrical, brush-like flower head resembling a fox's tail, hence the name.


Meadow Foxtail grows up to 1.5 meters tall, with broad, flat leaves and a dense, cylindrical flower head. The grass flourishes in moist, rich soils and is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and along riverbanks. Its flowering period, which is typically between April and June, can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Comparison to Other Grassland Species

Compared to other grassland species such as Brome grass, Meadow Fescue, and Timothy grass, Meadow Foxtail has a unique, soft, brush-like flower head. It's also an earlier flowering species, often appearing before the others. While Sweet Vernal grass shares a similar early flowering period, it has a different, more open flower structure.

Where Can You Find Meadow Foxtail?

Meadow Foxtail is native to Europe and Asia but has spread to various parts of the world, including North America. It thrives in moist, fertile soils and is commonly found in meadows, pastures, and riverbanks.

This grass species is prevalent in regions with cool, temperate climates. It is often found in the same habitats as Meadow Fescue and Brome Grass, both of which also prefer cool, moist environments.

In contrast to grasses like Sweet Vernal Grass and Timothy Grass, which are cultivated for their aromatic qualities and high yield respectively, Meadow Foxtail is primarily a wild grass. It's less common in cultivated fields or pastures, but can still be a significant allergen source due to its widespread presence in natural environments.

What Is the Ecology of Meadow Foxtail?

Meadow Foxtail, being a dominant species in lowland grasslands, plays a crucial role in these ecosystems. It provides shelter and food for various wildlife species and has been used traditionally for different purposes, including as a fodder crop.

Value to Wildlife

Meadow Foxtail provides shelter for small mammals and insects, and its seeds serve as a food source for birds. It is particularly valuable in early spring, when food sources can be scarce. Like Meadow Fescue and Brome Grass, it plays a significant role in supporting local biodiversity.


Traditionally, Meadow Foxtail has been used as a fodder crop, much like Timothy Grass. Its high palatability and digestibility make it a good grazing option for livestock, particularly in the early stages of growth. However, unlike Timothy Grass or Sweet Vernal Grass, Meadow Foxtail is not commonly grown in cultivated fields, limiting its use for large-scale agricultural purposes.

What Are the Allergen and Environmental Characteristics of Meadow Foxtail?

Meadow Foxtail exhibits unique allergen and environmental characteristics that contribute to its role as an allergen. Its pollen, released during the flowering period, contains proteins that can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

The flowering period of Meadow Foxtail typically occurs in late spring, during which it releases pollen into the environment. This period often coincides with the flowering of other grass species, such as Timothy Grass and Sweet Vernal Grass, making it difficult for allergy sufferers to identify the specific source of their symptoms.

Meadow Foxtail pollen grains are small, enabling them to be easily inhaled and reach the nasal passages and lungs. This can lead to common hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and coughing. In severe cases, exposure to Meadow Foxtail pollen may trigger an asthma attack.

In environmental terms, Meadow Foxtail is a hardy species, capable of thriving in a variety of conditions. It prefers moist, fertile soils but can also tolerate drier conditions, much like Meadow Fescue and Brome Grass. Its ecological adaptability contributes to its widespread occurrence, increasing the likelihood of contact with sensitive individuals.

What Is the Clinical Relevance of Meadow Foxtail?

The clinical relevance of Meadow Foxtail lies in its capacity to trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, particularly during its flowering period when it releases allergenic pollen. Understanding the molecular aspects and the immune response it elicits can help in diagnosing and managing Meadow Foxtail allergies.

Molecular Aspects

Meadow Foxtail pollen contains allergenic proteins, which can induce an immune response in allergy sufferers. These proteins are similar to those found in other grass species, such as Timothy Grass and Sweet Vernal Grass. This cross-reactivity can cause individuals allergic to Meadow Foxtail to react to other grasses, complicating allergy diagnosis and management.

Meadow Foxtail, IgE, Serum

Exposure to Meadow Foxtail pollen can trigger the production of specific IgE antibodies in sensitive individuals. These antibodies bind to the allergenic proteins in the pollen, leading to the release of inflammatory mediators that cause allergy symptoms. Measuring the level of Meadow Foxtail-specific IgE in the serum is a common diagnostic method for identifying sensitization to this allergen.

What Are the Diagnostic and Treatment Options for Meadow Foxtail Allergy?

Meadow Foxtail allergy can be diagnosed using skin testing or blood testing for specific IgE antibodies. The primary treatment options include allergen avoidance, symptom management with medications, and immunotherapy which can provide long-term relief.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

One of the most effective treatments for Meadow Foxtail allergy is Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT). This treatment involves placing a tablet containing a small amount of the allergen under the tongue daily. Over time, this can help the immune system become less reactive to the allergen, reducing the severity of allergic reactions. SLIT has been proven effective for various grass pollen allergies, including Timothy grass, and may also be beneficial for Meadow Foxtail allergy.

It's crucial to remember that while these treatment options can help manage symptoms, complete avoidance of Meadow Foxtail pollen, particularly during its flowering season, is the most effective way to prevent allergic reactions. This can be challenging due to cross-reactivity with other grass species, such as Sweet Vernal Grass and Brome Grass, which share similar allergenic proteins. Therefore, understanding the flowering times of these grasses and taking preventive measures can greatly help manage allergy symptoms.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is meadow foxtail good for horses?

No, meadow foxtail is not good for horses. It contains a high sugar content that can lead to digestive issues, laminitis, and obesity. In addition, its barbed seed heads can cause mechanical injury to a horse's mouth and digestive tract. It should be removed from horse pastures.

What is meadow foxtail used for?

Meadow foxtail, a type of grass, is primarily used in allergy immunotherapy. Extracts from this grass are included in both subcutaneous and sublingual allergy treatments to help desensitize patients to grass pollen, effectively reducing their allergic reactions over a period of consistent treatment.

What are the characteristics of meadow foxtail?

Meadow Foxtail is a perennial grass that grows between 20-80 cm tall with a cylindrical, spike-like, bristly flower head. It has flat, soft, green leaves and roots that form a dense sod. Its pollen, released in spring, is a common cause of hay fever allergies.

Does meadow foxtail make good hay?

Meadow foxtail can make good hay, especially for horses, due to its high nutritional value. However, it's essential to cut it early, during the late boot to early heading stage, for optimal nutrient content. Late-cut foxtail hay can be less palatable and nutritious.

What eats meadow foxtail?

Meadow foxtail is a type of grass that is often consumed by various types of livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and horses. It can be a valuable part of their diet due to its high nutritional content. However, it's not typically consumed by wildlife.

How do dogs act when they have a foxtail?

When a dog has a foxtail, they typically exhibit behaviors such as frequent scratching, shaking their head, squinting, coughing, and sneezing. They may also have visible sores or bumps, show signs of discomfort, or constantly lick a particular area due to irritation.

How do I know if my dog has a foxtail in his foot?

If your dog has a foxtail in his foot, you may notice symptoms like limping, incessant licking or chewing at the foot, swelling, discharge, or a visible abscess. The dog might also seem irritated or in pain. Always consult a vet for a proper diagnosis.

How do you identify a meadow foxtail?

Identifying a Meadow Foxtail involves recognizing its unique characteristics. It's a perennial grass that grows up to 1 meter tall, with a cylindrical, brush-like flowering head that's green or purplish. Its leaves are flat and rough, and it typically blooms from April to June.

What is Alopecurus pratensis used for?

Alopecurus pratensis, commonly known as meadow foxtail, is often used in allergy immunotherapy. This grass species is known to trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Extracts from it are used to desensitize patients, reducing their sensitivity and allergic response to this specific allergen.

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