2022’s Worst Cities for Grass Allergies This Summer

Man Sneezing in the Grass - 2022's Worst Cities for Grass Allergies

Get out the antihistamines — grass allergy season is here. 

Where in the U.S. is your cute picnic on the grass most likely to lead to an icky, stuffy nose?

Lawn Love compared 125 metro areas to rank 2022’s Worst Cities for Grass Allergies This Summer. 

We looked at average grass pollen forecasts, grass allergen intensity, and lawn mowing frequency. We also considered access to allergists and allergy tests. 

Use our rankings and in-depth analysis to get ahead of a congested allergy season.

In this article

Metro area rankings

See how each metro area fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing 2022's worst (and best) metro areas for grass allergy sufferers, a ranking based on average pollen index, allergen intensity, access to allergists and tests, plus more

Results in depth

Grab the tissues

Northeasterners should start stocking up on allergy meds now — eight of our top 10 metro areas are in New England and Mid-Atlantic states. 

Metros like Lancaster, Pennsylvania (No. 1), Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, Connecticut (No. 2), and Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York (No. 3) will be the worst areas overall for grass allergy sufferers this season.

The New Haven-Milford, Connecticut (No. 9) area has the most severe grass allergens floating around this year. 

In these metros, popular cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue are often to blame. 

Be on pollen patrol

High grass pollen counts are on the horizon for metros like Wichita, Kansas (No. 10), Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington (No. 11), and Corpus Christi, Texas (No. 37), but those allergens are not likely to lead to severe symptoms — if any at all. 

However, those who typically experience seasonal allergies here might see prolonged symptoms due to the uptick in circulating grass pollen. That’s especially true in Wichita, where residents historically have had their lawns mowed more frequently, on average, than in 106 other metros.

Sniffle-free Florida

Don’t be afraid to plan a relaxing picnic on the grass this summer in the Sunshine State. Most of our bottom-ranking metros are beach communities, where residents don’t have to worry as much about grass allergens. It’s no coincidence that fresh, seaside air feels better to breathe in — the ocean breeze blows many pollen particles away. 

Florida cities make up half of our bottom (aka “best”) 20 metro areas, including North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton as our top performer.

One caveat: While these metros are more friendly to many allergy sufferers this year, you won’t be completely out of the woods — or, better yet, the grass. Watch out for high-allergen, warm-season grass types like common Bermudagrass and bahiagrass, which are prevalent in Florida.

Expert take

Humans have dealt with allergies for centuries, yet there are still plenty of misconceptions surrounding hay fever. 

We asked experts to weigh in on seasonal grass allergies and offer advice on how to deal with the irritating symptoms. 

  1. What are the top three ways to alleviate allergy symptoms from grass pollen?
  2. What kinds of grasses are the most troublesome during allergy season? What are the most allergy-friendly grass types?
  3. What is one common misconception about seasonal grass allergies?
  4. How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a cold?
  5. How can a person tell if they’re allergic to grass pollen versus other types of pollen?
  6. When does grass allergy season typically begin and end?
Jonathan A. Bernstein, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Andrew Rorie, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI
Assistant Professor Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Sean McGhee
Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatrics - Immunology and Allergy
Jonathan A. Bernstein, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology/Allergy Section and Bernstein Allergy Group; Bernstein Clinical Research Center

How can a person tell if they’re allergic to grass pollen versus other types of pollen?

Typically, grass-sensitized patients will have itching of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat, runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and post-nasal drainage when they are outdoors during the grass season. 

The grass season in the Midwest typically begins in late May and goes to mid-July, but varies regionally in some parts of the country.  Sometimes it is not evident to patients that grass is the culprit which can make  a diagnosis of grass allergy more challenging.

What are the top three ways to alleviate allergy symptoms from grass pollen?

  1. Avoidance is difficult, but when indoors, keeping windows closed and running the A/C prevents outdoor allergens from coming indoors.
  2. Medications can help to treat the symptoms  or mild symptoms, an oral non-sedating antihistamine is effective for controlling itching, sneezing, and runny nose, but is not effective for nasal congestion. For moderate to severe symptoms, nasal sprays, such as a nasal corticosteroid or a nasal antihistamine spray, either alone or in combination, are very effective when used on a regular basis until the season ends.  
  3. For long term management, allergen immunotherapy to grass pollen is very effective at inducing tolerance and allowing patients to reduce or discontinue medications.  Allergen immunotherapy can be administered as sublingual tablets approved by the FDA or as subcutaneous injections.  The latter is more appropriate if patients are sensitized to multiple allergens.  Allergen immunotherapy, if effective at reducing patient-reported symptoms, should be continued for 3-5 years for optimal effectiveness although some patients may require longer courses.

What kinds of grasses are the most troublesome during allergy season? 

The grasses will vary regionally but timothy, fescue, and brome are common grasses. Bermuda is not as cross-reactive. Most grasses are 80% or more cross-reactive, meaning they are homogeneous in the allergen structure.

What is one common misconception about seasonal grass allergies? 

Many people believe allergies are a mild nuisance when in fact they have a significant impact on quality of life, work, and leisure activities.

How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a cold?

A cold is self-limiting and goes a way after a few days, whereas allergies are more persistent and recurrent at the same time each year.  Allergies will improve when the patient goes into an air-conditioned environment and are more responsive to non-sedating antihistamines and nasal sprays.

When does grass allergy season typically begin and end?  

This will depend on the part of the country, but as discussed above, in the Midwest they begin in late May and end mid-July but could begin earlier and last longer.

Andrew Rorie, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI
Assistant Professor Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Allergy/Immunology

How can a person tell if they’re allergic to grass pollen versus other types of pollen?

The time of year that patients have symptoms can somewhat help distinguish what pollen may be causing the allergy symptoms.  For instance, trees typically pollinate in the spring, grasses in the summer, and weeds in the fall.  The only way to tell for certain however which pollen a patient is allergic to is by allergy testing.

What are the top three ways to alleviate allergy symptoms from grass pollen? 

The three primary ways for alleviating allergy symptoms associated with grass pollen include:

  1.  Avoid as much as possible. Keeping the windows in the house and cars closed during grass pollen season can be helpful. 
  2. Another remedy includes changing clothes and taking a shower after working outdoors to rinse off the pollen. Nasal irrigation rinses can also be helpful after working outdoors. 
  3. Finally, allergy medications such as over-the-counter oral antihistamines or topical nasal corticosteroids can be helpful. Consult with your doctor if you have questions about taking these medications.

What kinds of grasses are the most troublesome during allergy season? What are the most allergy-friendly grass types? 

Unfortunately, there really isn’t an allergy-friendly type of grass. Generally speaking, there are southern grasses and northern pasture grasses. There is extensive cross-reactivity among the pollen of the cool and warm-season grasses. When looking under the microscope these grass pollen look identical as they are all large and monoporate. 

What is one common misconception about seasonal grass allergies?

The most common misconception about grass allergy is it will cause people symptoms all year long when they are mowing their lawn. The only part of the grass that people are allergic to is the pollen and that is only being produced at a specific time of year. 

If patients are having symptoms consistently throughout the year it could be more of a fungal spore allergy as mowing stirs up spores as well.

How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a cold? 

Patients with seasonal allergies can have symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy nose, and post-nasal drainage.  Some of the symptoms can also overlap with the common cold.  

Allergy symptoms can be correlated with peaks in pollen counts whereas colds are not.  Allergies also typically do not cause fever which can be seen with viral infections.

When does grass allergy season typically begin and end? 

The exact onset of grass pollen season is more specific regionally but as a whole, grasses will pollinate in the late spring to early summer and, to a lesser extent, a brief pollination in the fall.  There is growing evidence through climate change that the length of grass pollination season is extending.

Sean McGhee
Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatrics - Immunology and Allergy
Stanford University

How can a person tell if they’re allergic to grass pollen versus other types of pollen?

Grass pollen allergies and allergies to other types of pollen (cedar, olive tree, and others) will look the same with generally the same symptoms, but they will occur at different times of year, as you will only have symptoms when the tree or grass is pollinating. An allergy test can help distinguish which pollens one is sensitized to.

What are the top three ways to alleviate allergy symptoms from grass pollen?

  1. Medications will probably be the most useful way for people to deal with the problem in the short run –– either an antihistamine or a nasal steroid spray. 
  2. Over the long term, allergy shots can reduce the symptoms in a more permanent fashion but do involve a number of visits to the clinic to get the shots. 
  3. Avoidance of the pollen is helpful in theory –– doing things like closing the windows at night and running your air conditioner or HEPA filter to filter out pollens –– but can come at the cost also avoiding things you might otherwise want to do in your life, like being outdoors, hiking, etc.

What kinds of grasses are the most troublesome during allergy season? What are the most allergy-friendly grass types?

Unfortunately, grass pollens are highly cross-reactive, meaning that if you are sensitized to one pollen, you will react to most of them. However, your lawn is not usually the problem. Grass pollen is released when grass grows up and goes to seed, so the pollens causing your symptoms are not usually coming from your lawn, which is kept mowed.

What is one common misconception about seasonal grass allergies?

A common misconception is that people with grass pollen allergies cannot play field sports like soccer or football. Your symptoms are not coming from the field you are playing on; it’s the wild grasses that have gone to seed that are the problem. 

Grass pollens can blow in the wind for miles, so ripping out your lawn or refusing to play field hockey will have little effect on your symptoms.

How can you tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a cold? 

Itching is probably the major symptom that is different, with itching being much more prominent in allergies. Allergies also do not cause fevers, so if fever is present, it is not an allergy. 

Allergies will wax and wane from day to day depending on pollen exposure but will be present for days to weeks, or longer. Cold symptoms will start and end in a few days, typically, and follow a steady course of getting worse and then better.

When does grass allergy season typically begin and end?

The grass pollen season depends on where you live. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it will begin usually around May and end sometime in July. This is changing and expanding somewhat with changes in climate though.

Methodology

We ranked 125 metro areas from worst to best (1-125) based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below. 

We selected the metro areas based on their need for lawn mowing and therefore residents’ susceptibility to grass allergies.

“Metro areas” include census-designated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Data was collected for each “principal city” that makes up the MSA.

“Historical Average Monthly Mow Frequency” is based on internal customer data and covers the period between May and August 2021.

Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; Lawn Love; Pollen.com; and Urban Adaptation Assessment

Final thoughts: Climate change is nothing to sneeze at

Allergies are getting worse. 

Climate change is lengthening our allergy season and increasing pollen counts across cities by up to 40%. This is bad news for the more than 30% of Americans who sniffle, sneeze, and suffer from seasonal allergies. 

There are ways to minimize your exposure to grass pollen and resulting allergy symptoms, though — and they’re right in your own backyard: 

  1. Design an allergy-friendly landscape
  2. Plant low-pollen trees and flowers
  3. Avoid working in the morning, when pollen counts are highest.
  4. Keep an eye on your local pollen count before heading outside.
  5. Check the wind speed in your area — wind transmits a lot of pollen.
  6. Switch to artificial grass

Grass already getting to you? Avoid grass pollen altogether — hire a local Lawn Love pro to mow your lawn while you stay indoors. 

Main Photo Credit: iStock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a recent graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.