Grass pollen allergy symptoms

Grass pollen allergy symptoms? This man lying on grass, his hands behind his head, doesn’t get them or has them under control

There are 10,000 species of grass but about 20 cause grass pollen allergy symptoms. That’s 0.2%. Which may sound a tiny fraction but it can feel too much to the millions of people who get hay fever. Particularly as it’s common to be allergic to grass of more than one type. In the summer time it can be very hard to think about anything else if you’re affected. So let’s find out how to recognize the symptoms and how to manage them.

Grass pollen allergy symptoms = hay fever?

Let’s clear this up right away. You can have hay fever without having grass pollen allergy. The medical name for it is allergic rhinitis. Your symptoms could be seasonal but triggered by pollen from trees or weeds instead. Indoor allergens like dust mites can cause hay fever-like symptoms all year round. Grass pollen is one of the most common triggers though.

Checklist of grass pollen allergy symptoms

Nasal congestion, a runny nose and sneezing are among the most common grass allergy symptoms.

But you may get any combination of the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes, nose or throat
  • Red or watery eyes (swelling)
  • Post-nasal drip (the feeling of mucus dripping down your throat)
  • Tight chest or wheezing
  • Sinus inflammation
  • Cough

Clear mucus makes it more likely to be hay fever. Yellow mucus, a raised temperature and aching muscles tend to be cold symptoms. Read more about how to tell the difference here.

Touching grass may also cause itchy red skin. This is known as grass rash but is much less common.


Your immune system wrongly identifies this powder – pollen – as a threat and overreacts to protect you. Cue the clear mucus, itchy eyes and sneezing

Grass pollen allergy symptoms from food

People who are allergic to grass may get an itchy throat or mouth when eating certain fruit or vegetables. This is known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS). The species of grass most likely to cause it are orchard (cocksfoot) and timothy grass.

It happens because the food contains similar allergenic proteins to grass pollen. Foods to watch out for include white potato, tomato, orange, peach and watermelon. If you do react to any of these you might still be able to eat them after removing the peel and cooking them. That breaks down the proteins.

What causes grass pollen allergy symptoms?

The tiny grains that grass releases to fertilize other grass is what gets your nose in a twitch. Your immune system wrongly identifies this powder – pollen – as a threat and overreacts to protect you. Cue the clear mucus, itchy eyes and sneezing.

The problem looks likely to get worse too. Climate change in North America has already lengthened pollen season by up to four weeks.

How long do grass pollen allergy symptoms last?

Pollination happens at varying times depending on where you are in the world. Grass pollen season is in late spring or early summer in the north of the US. In the southern states the plants may pollinate year round.

Grasses are closely related so you may be allergic to more than one type. If they release pollen at different times this may extend your grass allergy season. The klarify app has pollen calendars to help identify the peak times for you in your area.

Oral allergy syndrome
made simple

Woman holding a juicy slice of watermelon and biting her lip – a tingly mouth can be a symptom of oral allergy syndrome

Factors that can make grass allergy symptoms worse

  • Dry weather: Grass pollen levels tend to be lower when it’s wet and calm. On dry days there's less moisture in the air to weigh down the pollen that whisks around in the wind. This makes for a higher chance of grass allergy symptoms.
  • Pollution is another factor. Scientists have found that air pollution particles can attach to grass pollen. This causes the powder to break down into even tinier pieces. So there’s more pollen for you to breathe in.
  • Feeling stressed: Problems tend to feel bigger when you’re already stressed and the same goes for grass allergy symptoms. But there may also be a physical link between stress and allergy. Stress hormones released by your body may intensify the allergic response from your overactive immune system.

Which species cause grass pollen allergy symptoms?

Only a handful of species cause grass pollen allergy symptoms. These include Bermuda, johnson, Kentucky, orchard, rye, sweet vernal and timothy grasses among others. Some only release pollen when they grow tall. But planted meadows are being used more and more to improve the biodiversity and look of urban areas. This means more pollen too.

Even if the type you’re allergic to doesn’t grow in your local area it might still affect you. On windy days grass pollen grains can travel for hundreds of miles.

Diagnosing grass pollen allergy symptoms

If your grass allergy symptoms bother you have them medically reviewed. Your healthcare provider may suggest an allergy test – usually a skin prick test or simple blood test – to help make a diagnosis. Then you’ll be able to discuss ways to manage your grass pollen allergy, from avoidance to treatment options.

Bathroom medicine cabinet with its door ajar – maybe there’s something inside to ease grass pollen allergy symptoms

Allergy medicines
and treatment options

Grass pollen allergy symptoms: how to manage them

Hay fever can have quite an impact on your everyday life. Especially during the summer months when it’s warm and sunny outside. But there are things you can do to reduce grass allergy symptoms. Get someone else to mow the lawn for a start. Here are some ideas.

Plan your days out to avoid grass pollen allergy symptoms

One way to control your grass allergy symptoms is by reducing your exposure to the pollen. The klarify app can help. Check it first thing every day and then plan your day. The app lets you track daily grass pollen levels, the weather and air quality in your area. There’s also a pollen forecast on our website. If the pollen levels are high you might want to stay home.

…and your days in

If you struggle with hay fever, why not think of other ways to enjoy the things you’d usually do outside. Perhaps you can work remotely to avoid a sneezy commute? Do your fitness class online. Invite friends to your home or meet them somewhere indoors.

Keep home as free as you can of grass pollen allergy symptoms

Close the windows when grass pollen levels are high. And try not to bring pollen in with you. Take off coats and shoes near the door and ask visitors to do the same. Remember to wipe dogs and cats with a towel before letting them back inside. Vacuum at least once a week and more if you have pets. Dry your clothes indoors instead of on a washing line.

Start a new bedtime routine to stop grass pollen allergy symptoms at night

A shower and rinsing your hair before bed can help to wash off any pollen you’ve picked up during the day. Leave dirty clothes in the bathroom – or somewhere that isn’t where you sleep. Your bedroom should be a pet-free zone too. And change your bedding once a week.

Follow the hay fever dress code

Wear wrap-around sunglasses and a hat to keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair. Consider swapping shorts for long-legged pants if you get grass rash. And think about wearing a face mask if your symptoms are getting you down.

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Young man holding a hankie to his nose – we can’t see his face properly but he could be struggling with grass allergy

How do you treat grass allergies?

Grass allergy symptoms can make you feel low as well as unwell. Ask for help if avoiding pollen isn’t working – or not well enough. Your healthcare provider will be able to discuss your treatment options. These might include:

  • Drug-free relief
  • Topical and oral allergy medicines
  • Allergy immunotherapy

People often choose to start with drug-free relief. Saline nasal sprays help to wash away a build-up of mucus in the nose. Saline eye drops can reduce swelling on the surface of the eye (cornea), easing redness, watery eyes and itching. You can use both as often as you like.

Medicines for grass pollen allergy symptoms

There are two common medicines for easing grass allergy symptoms. Antihistamines block histamine. That’s the chemical released in an allergic reaction which causes a lot of your symptoms. Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications. They work by copying a natural hormone in your body. Decongestants tackle a blocked or stuffy nose but should only be taken for a short time. These medications come in various forms and strengths, some over-the-counter, others only with a prescription.

Antihistamines and steroids may work as a preventative measure; try taking them from a couple of weeks before grass pollen season to help minimize hay fever symptoms.

Long-term treatment for grass allergy symptoms

Immunotherapy is the one treatment that can teach your immune system not to react so strongly. It comes in the form of injections (subcutaneous immunotherapy) or tablets taken under the tongue (sublingual immunotherapy). Both are taken for several years. The repeated tiny doses of the allergen are a form of desensitization.

Studies have shown that immunotherapy for one type of grass can reduce allergies to related species. The lasting effects vary from person to person. But the goal is for grass pollen to cause only mild, if any, symptoms.

Interested in learning more about allergy immunotherapy? We can help you find a doctor to talk you through the treatment.

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