Go to our "CLOSINGS" tab on our website to see our updated Coronavirus Policy

Month: April 2022

Grass Allergies

Environmental allergies affect about 50 million Americans in varying degrees of severity. For a majority of these individuals, the symptoms are aggravated seasonally and triggered by exposure to outdoor allergens.

Most of these allergens are pollens, which are tiny microscopic grains that help in the fertilization of plants. These pollens are produced by trees, grasses, and weeds. Trees produce most of the pollen in the early Spring and grasses pollinate in the late Spring and early Summer in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland geographical area. There is also a period in March and April when both trees and grasses release pollen. Ragweed is the most common weed and its pollen causes seasonal allergy symptoms in the Fall. Ragweed pollen usually begins to pollinate in mid-August in our region, peak in September and taper off after the first frost.

Types of Grasses:
The most common grasses that release pollen triggering allergy symptoms are as follows:

  • Orchard
  • Timothy
  • Sweet Vernal
  • Perennial Rye
  • Bermuda

There are also other less common types of grasses that can cause seasonal allergies.


  • Itchy, runny, stuffy nose
  • Itchy, watery, red, puffy eyes
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy ears
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Cough

Pollen can also affect the sinuses causing facial pressure and headaches. Some individuals also experience itching and skin rashes after exposure to the grass.

Many asthmatics are also sensitive to the grasses and can experience a flare-up of their symptoms which may include chest tightness, wheezing, coughing, and/or shortness of breath during the grass pollen season.


The diagnosis of grass allergies begins with a comprehensive history and physical examination. Skin tests and blood tests are 2 types of allergy tests that are used in order to confirm the diagnosis of grass allergy. Skin tests necessitate pricking of the intact skin with a sharp plastic lancet which has been dipped in a fluid containing the chemical extracts from different pollens with positive and negative controls. An individual sensitized to one or more grass pollens will show a raised itchy bump at the site of the skin test site of the corresponding pollen extract after 15 to 20 minutes. The other test is a laboratory test which analyzes the blood sample for the presence of specific antibodies. If someone exhibits the typical nasal and eye symptoms of grass allergies and tests positive for grass allergy, the condition is called allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever) and allergic conjunctivitis respectively. As mentioned previously, allergies to grass can also trigger asthma in certain individuals.



After the diagnosis of grass allergy is confirmed, the first step in the management is to avoid exposure to the offending grass pollen to the best of one’s ability. Below are some recommended ways on how to avoid the pollen exposure:

  • Stay indoors on high pollen days with the doors and windows closed
  • Change clothes after outdoor activities
  • Before going to bed, take a bath or shower and wash one’s hair to remove the pollen
  • Lawns should be cut short, reducing the ability of the grasses to release pollen
  • Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week


  • Oral antihistamines – To reduce sneezing, itching, and runny nose
  • Nasal sprays – To help relieve nasal congestion and post-nasal drip
  • Eye drops – To minimize itching, watering, and redness of the eyes


Allergen immunotherapy (i.e., allergy shots, allergy injections, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization) is a procedure offered by our allergy and immunology practice in order to build up tolerance to the pollens that an individual is sensitized to. This process is effective in minimizing the need for medications and preventing the allergy symptoms even after exposure to the pollen.

Allergen immunotherapy is over 100 years old in the U.S. and it is considered the standard of care when environmental controls and medications do not give adequate relief from symptoms or when medications cause undesirable side effects. This treatment modality is instrumental in improving the quality of life of allergy sufferers. It is effective in 80-85% of the individuals who take allergy shots and is usually a 3-5 year process.

The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy have 3 convenient office locations in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area and are very experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of grass allergies as well as other pollen and environmental allergies such as dust mites, molds, pets, and cockroaches. In addition, we also treat asthma, eczema, skin disorders (e.g., hives, generalized itching, swelling episodes, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac), food allergies, medication allergies, insect sting allergies, eosinophilic esophagitis, mast cell disorders, and immunologic disorders. Black & Kletz Allergy treat both adults and children and have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. We offer on-site parking at each location and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible. There is a free shuttle that runs between the McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. Please call one of our offices to make an appointment or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy has been serving the Washington, DC metropolitan area for more than 50 years and we pride ourselves in providing exceptional allergy and asthma care in a professional and pleasant setting.

Allergies to Insect Stings

Now that Spring has sprung, one is more likely to be stung by a flying insect, although the summer months are when insect stings occur the most. In the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area, the most common flying insects that cause stings include the honey bee, wasp, yellow jacket, white faced hornet, and yellow faced hornet. Honey bees live in colonies or “honeycombs” that are found in cavities of buildings or in hollow trees. Yellow jackets usually nest underground and unlike their fellow honey bees, they are rarely seen in cracks in masonry or woodpiles. Hornets produce grey or brown football shaped nests above the ground which are typically located in shrubbery or in branches of trees. Wasps make nests that are made up of a paper-like material which may be found behind shutters, in shrubs, or under eaves. Approximately 3% of individuals in the U.S. experience allergic reactions to the venom resulting from flying insect stings. Roughly 500,000 individuals in the U.S. seek emergency room care every year for insect sting reactions. Unfortunately, there are about 50 deaths reported each year from these reactions.  Though they can occur at any time of the year, they are most common in the summer months in our greater Washington, DC metropolitan area.

It should be noted that there is another type of stinging insect that individuals should be aware of, although it does not fly, nor is it common in the Washington, DC metro area. Fire ants will bite and sting. They inject their venom while stinging which can lead to anaphylactic reactions (i.e., anaphylaxis) in some allergic individuals. Although anaphylaxis can occur, the more typical reaction to a fire ant is that of a local burning pain with an accompanying red bump that can turn into a white fluid-filled pustule within a day or two. As mentioned above, they are not common in the Washington, DC metropolitan area however, the first documented infestation of fire ants in the state of Virginia was in 1989. Fire ants have also been found in Maryland.

When stung by a flying insect, most people have either no reaction at all or they have a small local reaction at the site of the sting. Individuals with this type of response are at no increased risk for an anaphylactic reaction than that of the general population. Some individuals will develop a large swollen red area where they were stung. This large local reaction can reach the size of a baseball in some instances. Even though there is a large local reaction, there is no increased risk of an anaphylactic reaction from the insect sting. On the other hand, approximately 3% of individuals will develop a systemic reaction to an insect sting which may include hives (i.e., urticaria), generalized itching (i.e., pruritus), swelling (i.e., angioedema), chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, abdominal cramping, and/or drop in blood pressure.

The diagnosis of an insect sting allergy is done by board certified allergists like the ones at Black & Kletz Allergy. The allergist will perform a comprehensive history and physical examination. Depending on the history taken from the patient, allergy testing to flying insects is usually the next step. Allergy testing is usually done by the preferred method of skin testing, although blood testing is occasionally performed depending on the situation.

If an individual has a positive allergy test to any of the stinging insect venoms, it is highly recommended that this individual go on a course of venom allergy immunotherapy (i.e., allergy desensitization, allergy shots, allergy injections) as it is tremendously efficacious in preventing further anaphylactic reactions from flying insect stings.  Venom allergy immunotherapy involves receiving progressively larger doses and volumes of insect venom to the patient weekly over a period of 10 weeks, then every 2 weeks for 1 dose, then every 3 weeks for 1 dose, then a maintenance dose every 4 weeks for 1 year, and then the maintenance dose can be reduced to every 6 weeks for several more years.  This maintenance dose is essentially comparable to the amount of venom in an actual flying insect sting.

All patients with flying insect sting allergies are prescribed a self-injectable epinephrine device such as EpiPen, Auvi-Q, or Adrenaclick. If one uses a self-injectable epinephrine device, they should go immediately to the closest emergency room. It is also important to note that unlike other flying stinging insects, honey bees leave their stinger in the skin of their victims. If one sees a stinger at the site of a sting, one should not pull out the stinger. It should be scraped off with a finger nail, credit card, or other flat surface. Pulling out a stinger can cause more venom to be introduced into the person’s body which can obviously be more detrimental.

The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy will promptly answer any questions you may have regarding insect stings or any related conditions. Our allergy doctors have been diagnosing and treating insect sting allergies in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area for more than 50 years. We have 3 convenient locations in the DC metro area with offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. There is on-site parking at each location and both the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible. There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. To schedule an appointment, please call us at any one of our 3 locations. Alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy is dedicated in providing the most up-to-date diagnostic and treatment modalities in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology.