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Grass allergy

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Grass allergy is when a person experiences symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or thunderstorm asthma after exposure to grass pollen.
  • Allergic rhinitis caused by grass allergy can cause itchy eyes and throat, a runny nose and sneezing.
  • You are more likely to be exposed to pollen and experience symptoms of grass allergy at certain times of the year. The pollen season will depend on where you live.
  • People who have asthma may find that pollen triggers a flare-up. This is called thunderstorm asthma.
  • There are many strategies you can use to reduce the chance of symptoms, and medicines are available to treat symptoms of allergy — ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

What is grass allergy?

Grass allergy occurs when a person experiences symptoms after being exposed to pollen from grasses (as well as trees, plants and some weeds).

Grass pollen spreads when blown by the wind. Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and thunderstorm asthma are 2 conditions caused by pollen exposure.

Australian native grasses are less likely to cause allergies than those introduced from overseas, exotic or lawn-variety grasses.

When am I at risk of grass allergy?

You are more likely to experience symptoms of grass allergy during the time of year when grasses are producing pollen.

In northern coastal areas, that’s generally January, February and March. In southern Australia, it’s generally October, November and December. Some grasses and weeds flower all year round.

There is more grass pollen in inland areas. There is also more pollen on Australia’s south coast than the east coast.

It can be hard to avoid exposure to pollen, and some pollen seasons can last for months.

To find out when you might be at risk from certain types of pollen, check the ASCIA pollen calendar.

What are the symptoms of grass allergy?

Grass allergy can cause hay fever and thunderstorm asthma.

Symptoms of hay fever include:

  • runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy or red eyes
  • throat irritation

Thunderstorm asthma refers to asthma triggered by pollen. You may experience asthma symptoms such as cough, chest tightness or wheeze.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see my doctor?

Symptoms of grass allergy can affect your general health and quality of life. If you have moderate or severe symptoms that interfere with your daily life, you should see your doctor to discuss treatment.

Grass allergy can make asthma worse. People who have a history of asthma and have symptoms of hay fever or thunderstorm asthma should see their doctor to review their asthma management plan. If you don’t have asthma, but experience wheezing in the spring and summer months, you should also see your doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is grass allergy diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and try to identify potential triggers. Keeping a diary of symptoms might help.

Your doctor might also order an allergy test to check what is causing your symptoms and may refer you to a specialist allergy doctor.

How is grass allergy treated?

The only treatment available to treat grass allergy is immunotherapy treatment. This is when you are exposed to small but increasing doses of allergens over a long period of time to help stop your allergic reaction. It takes a long time to work and needs to be prescribed by an allergy specialist.

There are many other treatments available to relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis and thunderstorm asthma associated with pollen. It’s important to remember that while these treatments are effective, they help with symptoms only and do not cure the allergy itself.

How is hay fever treated?

Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend a medicine to relieve your symptoms.

There are different types of medicine that can help relieve symptoms of hay fever:

  • Antihistamines (tablets or syrup) help stop sneezing, itchy eyes and other symptoms.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays reduce inflammation. They can be very effective but need to be used regularly.
  • Decongestants (nasal sprays or tablets) unblock your nose but have side effects such as tremors, sleeping problems, anxiety and increased blood pressure and should not be used for long periods.
  • Salt water nasal sprays can reduce symptoms.

How is thunderstorm asthma treated?

If you are prone to thunderstorm asthma, you may need to take asthma medication as a precaution in spring, when you first notice coughing or wheezing. Check your asthma management plan or ask your doctor for more information and advice.

How can I prevent grass allergy?

There are many things you can do to reduce the chance of experiencing symptoms. Where possible, try to:

  • Avoid going out before or during thunderstorms, particularly when pollen counts are high.
  • Wear protective glasses (or sunglasses) to shield your eyes when you’re outside.
  • Don’t mow the lawn, and stay inside while it’s being mown.
  • Keep your windows closed at home and in the car.
  • If you use air conditioning in the car, put it on the recirculate setting.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible until after midday, particularly in the pollen season and on windy days.
  • Shower when you get home to wash off pollen residue from outside.

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Last reviewed: June 2022

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