Grass Allergy and What Can Be Done to Help You

In the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area, grass pollinates mostly from the end of April through the end of August.  The peak grass pollen levels tend to be from May through July, however.  Grass is a very common allergen as it affects millions of individuals.

There are thousands of types (i.e., species) of grasses and many cross-react with one another.  This means that if you are allergic to a particular type of grass, then you are likely to exhibit allergic symptoms if you are exposed to another type of grass if it is within the same grass subfamily.  Pooideae is the largest subfamily of the grass family Poaceae.  These grasses are common grasses known to cause allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever) in sensitized individuals.  They tend to occur in temperate climates in the U.S.  Some of the grasses in this subfamily include Timothy, Red top, Sweet vernal, Orchard, Meadow fescue, Kentucky blue, and June.  They also include the common cereal grasses (e.g., rye, wheat, barley, oat).  Panicoideae, also in the grass family Poaceae, is another common grass subfamily and its’ grasses are also a common cause of allergic rhinitis.  Common grasses in this subfamily include Johnson and Bahia.  In the grass family Poaceae, subfamily Chloridoideae, the most common grass to cause allergy symptoms is Bermuda.  Bermuda grass tends to occur mostly in the southern half of the U.S. where there are warmer temperatures.

The typical allergic rhinitis symptoms that most allergic individuals suffer from may include all or some of the following:  sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy nose, clogged ears, itchy ears, itchy eyes, watery eyes, puffy eyes, hoarseness, snoring, sinus congestion, sinus headaches, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.  In very allergic individuals, contact with grasses may cause itchy skin and hives.  Rarely, a very grass-allergic person may develop anaphylaxis if he or she scrapes their skin on grass and it gets into the bloodstream, as is not uncommon in certain sports such as football, baseball, and soccer.

In order to manage one’s grass allergies, the following tips are recommended:

  • Avoid mowing the lawn, but if you need to mow it, wear a mask.
  • Remove your clothes after coming inside from outdoors. Take a shower to wash the pollen off of you as well as wash your clothes.
  • Keep your lawn short, as grass pollinates when the grass is tall.
  • Keep an eye on the pollen count. You check it daily by clicking Today’s Pollen Count.
  • Wash your pets when they come indoors, as their fur will transport grass pollen into your home.
  • Avoid hanging wet clothes outdoors to dry, as pollen will gather on the clothes.
  • Keep your windows and sunroofs closed in your motor vehicles.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed in your house.
  • Use over the counter allergy medications such as oral antihistamines, nasal sprays, and/or eye drops, if approved by your physician.
  • See a board certified allergist, like the ones at Black & Kletz Allergy, if your symptoms are not alleviated by over the counter medications.

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have expertise in diagnosing and treating grass allergies as well as other environmental allergies such as trees, weeds, dust mites, molds, cockroaches, pets, and other animals.  We diagnose and treat both children and adults.  In addition, we also see patients with a variety of other allergic/immunologic conditions such as asthma, eczema, sinus problems, hives, swelling episodes, generalized itching, food allergies, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, contact dermatitis, insect sting allergies, medication allergies, eosinophilic esophagitis, hypogammaglobulinemia, and other immune disorders.

Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 convenient locations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.  Our office locations are in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  Each office has on-site parking and the Washington, DC and McLean 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 make an appointment, please call our office location that is most convenient for you or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  The allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy strive to provide our patients with the highest quality allergy and asthma care in the Washington, DC and Northern Virginia metropolitan area.