How to Survive Grass Pollen Allergy Season in the Northern US

Grass Pollen
Robert Gill/Getty Images

The grasses people use in their lawns up North are different from the types used in the South. Learn what you can do to minimize your exposure to grass pollen, and enjoy your summer without sneezing. 

​​Grass Pollen Allergy Season in the Northern States of the U.S.

I think the best way to answer when grass pollen allergy season comes is to outline the growth and reproductive stages that the cool-season types of lawn grasses undergo annually.

The time of year that you need to worry about is the flowering part of the cycle.

As the snow recedes in the North in early spring, the cool-season grasses start to grow actively once again, pushing up green shoots. From these shoots, flower stalks will emerge at some time in May. Flowers (inflorescences) will follow. The average person may not think of the grass in a lawn as ever "flowering" and may speak, instead, of the grass "going to seed," but it amounts to the same thing: grass must first flower before it can go to seed.

Kentucky bluegrass is one of the worst offenders among the cool-season grasses. Reproductive activities occurring in these flowers will be a factor for sufferers of grass pollen allergy for several weeks in the North, spanning the following months:

  1. End of May
  2. June
  3. Beginning of July 

Cool Season Grasses and Seasonal Allergies

"Cool-season grasses" are called that because they grow most actively in the spring and fall in the North, when the weather is neither hot nor cold, but "cool." They go dormant at some point in the summer (without a lot of hose-watering on your part, the use of an automatic irrigation system, or a helping hand from Mother Nature in the form of rain), to cope with weather that is too hot and dry for them.

Dormancy is a plant's way of "taking a breather." In autumn, grass plants will perk back up again, but the fall lawn puts more energy into such things as storing nutrients for winter than in flowering.

How to Combat Grass Pollen

Do you need some extra incentive to mow the lawn (I know I do!)? A well-maintained lawn will not contribute to problems with grass pollen allergies because flower stalks are mowed down before flowers can develop.

But wild grasses and grass in lawns that are not mowed regularly will still plague sufferers from grass pollen allergies (you have only so much control over your environment).

If you suffer from grass pollen allergy and want to try to minimize exposure, you can:

  1. Mow often: the recommended mowing height is when the grass is 3 to 3 1/2 inches tall.
  2. Wear a face mask when working in the yard May-July, in case your neighbors are less fastidious and allow their grass to bloom.

Of course, grass pollen is not the sole menace lurking out there in the yard, ready to make your life miserable, potentially. For information on dealing with deer ticks (carriers of Lyme disease, etc.) and mosquitoes (carriers of West Nile virus, etc.), please see: