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Madison Sasser, a 21-year-old senior at Belmont University in Nashville, left her doctor's office with two kinds of nose spray and eye drops Thursday after already enduring an allergy-related sinus infection three weeks ago -- right before final exams.
"It's been awful," she said. "My eyes have been so itchy and red, and I sneeze and cough. It's just been terrible."
While water that encourages tree growth and mold might be chiefly to blame in the South, in Dallas it's the wind that's helping to scatter the allergens.
"We've had heavy winds and the tree pollens were in heavy bloom, and all the wind was causing a lot of people a lot of problems," said Jill Weinger, physician's assistant at the Dallas Allergy & Asthma Center, where some patients were returning for treatment after years of absence.
Despite anecdotal evidence, it's difficult to determine whether this year is really worse than previous years, said Angel Waldron, spokeswoman for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, which plans to tabulate pollen counts for cities later in the season.
But in general, she said, allergy seasons have been getting longer and more challenging.
"We do know that climate change and warmer temperatures are allowing trees to pollinate longer than usual," she said. "Although people feel things are worse than ever before, it's actually because of the longer season. It's a longer time to endure."
In Louisville, Ky., 20-year-old Jared Casey's glazed eyes scanned the aisles of a Walgreens drugstore Thursday afternoon. He greeted the allergy season with an over-the-counter purchase of Claritin-D at the beginning of February -- six weeks earlier than last year.
He switched to Zyrtec at the beginning of May, when his ears began plugging up, and said his symptoms are lasting longer than in years past.
"It's been a lot worse," he said. "My ears have stayed plugged up for two weeks."
Though medication can help, there are other ways to lessen the misery.
Reisacher tells patients to shower and change clothes after coming inside and not to toss clothes worn outside onto the bed. Tree pollen is sticky and tends to linger on fabric, skin and hair.
He also advises shutting bedroom windows before bedtime to prevent pollen from invading in the early morning. Pollen counts are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Kristen Fennimore of New Egypt, N.J., counts herself among the than 35 million Americans plagued by seasonal allergic rhinitis -- also known as hay fever, a condition characterized by sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose and the telltale itchiness in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes or ears.
The 28-year-old legal assistant said that until recently she was feeling pretty good and thought she might get off easy this year. But pride goes before a fall.
"I was going around bragging how my allergies weren't bad this year," she said. "Then this week, it's been horrible."
Pollen counts by region:
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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