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Early, intense allergy season producing misery

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Misery for spring allergy sufferers has come earlier this year. Doctors say it's one of the earliest tree pollen seasons ever, and they expect it to just get worse.

Cold winds from the north slowed down the release of pollen on Thursday, according to Children's Mercy Hospital which keeps the area's pollen count. But it was still in the high range.

"Sneezing and irritated eyes when I got up this morning. Yes, indeed it is early for that. Usually it hits me about mid-March," said Chad Leever.

The juniper is busting out all over. So is the elm. Last year on this date, the pollen count was two. This year, it's 178, and is expected to go much higher in coming weeks.

"I'm predicting counts in the thousands which is not very good for allergy patients," said Dr. Chitra Dinakar, an allergist with Children's Mercy.

She said you can blame the mild winter and climate change.

"Sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. That leads to increased pollen counts," she said.

She recommends starting daily use of nasal steroid sprays two weeks before the season starts.

"Well, we've already missed that bus, but at least they should start that now," said Dr. Dinakar.

There's a new over-the-counter option that had previously been prescription-only. Rhinocort joins Nasacort and Flonase.

"They all work the same, but some people still might get relief from one versus another," said Jessica Denning, a pharmacist at Target in Mission.

She said it's the same with those antihistimine pills such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec.

Leever started taking his medicine Thursday morning.

"I feel really good right now," he said.

He felt good enough to take his kids to the park. But the allergist said that avoiding pollen is the best way to make it through the season.
She said a mask can help. Also, wash the pollen off yourself and your pets when you come indoors, and keep windows closed.

Dr. Dinakar added that it's time to see a specialist if you are having trouble figuring out what you're allergic to, or if you have symptoms that are too much to handle on your own.