In Texas, trees and grasses are the leading cause of spring allergies, explains Austin-based allergist William Howland MD. In Austin, the heaviest pollinating trees are oaks. Ash and elm trees pollinate in mid-February, reports Dr. Howland. In March, oak pollination starts and levels peak around April 1st. Cottonwood and pecan trees are the last to pollinate in May, states William Howland MD.
Oak trees become covered with green and yellow catkins. On windy days they burst and spread a large amounts of pollen, says William Howland MD. The catkins cover the ground, sidewalks, yards, streets and cars in mid-April. However, sweeping the catkins spreads and releases more pollen, cautions William Howland MD.
William Howland MD explains that in Austin, commonly pollinating grass varieties are rye, Johnson and Bermuda. Unfortunately, if a person is allergic to rye grass they are allergic to all grasses, states William Howland MD. Rye grass tends be located on lawns and in agricultural areas. Johnson grass is usually found on pastures and right-of-way areas and along stream banks. However, Bermuda grass is a perennial that is difficult to escape. It grows in such varied places as coastal areas, golf courses, lawns, parks, and recreation areas and on sports fields, explains William Howland MD.
Like all pollen allergies, people who are allergic to grass tend to suffer from hay fever, says William Howland MD. Typically, people with hay fever are congested, sneeze and have itchy eyes. The symptoms aren’t often as severe as they are for a ragweed or tree allergy, because grass pollen counts normally aren’t as high in Central Texas, explains William Howland MD. However, grasses may pollinate from March to November depending on rainfall during the summer, so people with allergies suffer a little bit longer. William Howland MD suggests that a grass allergy can be minimized with prescription antihistamines and nasal sprays. You can even start prescription allergy-preventing nasal sprays before the allergy season starts, says William Howland MD.
William Howland MD suggests that people who are sensitive to pollen should run the air-conditioning instead of having their windows open in the house or in a vehicle, if possible. Another way for people to protect themselves is to limit exposure outside, William Howland MD points out. Peak pollen hours are between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., and people who suffer from allergies should avoid outside activity during that time. William Howland MD also suggests that patients don’t hang clothing out to dry during grass pollen season, as it could end up on bedding.
William Howland MD has been voted one of the best doctors in Austin by the magazine Austin Monthly. In addition to his busy private practice, Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin (www.nosneezes.com), William Howland MD conducts research in the field of allergies and asthma, seeking to find new medications to ease symptoms. William Howland MD has a special interest in Cedar Fever, a wintertime allergy that affects Texans. His research has been widely published and he hosts a regular televised segment on KVUE news about allergies.