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For allergy sufferers, this time of year is rough
A pretty flower, or a sign that allergy season is under way? For millions, fresh blooms are harbingers of sneezes, sniffles and suffering.
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By COLLEEN CREEGAN
University of Mary Washington senior Andrea McDaniel considers herself the poster child for allergies.
After enduring tests freshman year, McDaniel learned she was allergic to 28 different environmental factors.
"I'm allergic to basically every type of weed, tree, grass, pollen, animal. Pretty much everything out there, even cockroaches," said the 22-year-old.
This time of year is the worst for McDaniel, just as it is for millions of other people whose allergies flare up each spring.
"It's my favorite season because of the nice weather, but it's actually the worst for my health because of all the pollen," McDaniel said.
Approximately 40 million to 50 million Americans have allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology Web site.
They suffer from the usual sneezing, watery eyes and shortness of breath that accompany the arrival of spring each year.
Pesky pollens and mold spores are to blame for the majority of spring allergy problems, especially hay fever. These microscopic particles have a huge impact on the comfort of 35 million American seasonal hay fever sufferers.
Checking Web sites such as Pollen.com for the latest regional pollen conditions can help when making outdoor plans, since allergists recommend staying inside when pollen counts are high.
Dr. Seth Craig, at the Allergy and Asthma Center of Fredericksburg, said the peak pollen times are early morning and late afternoon.
"Throughout spring, it's a series of spikes, from February to the end of April," Craig said about pollen counts.
He added that April is typically the worst month for allergy sufferers because that's when the grass begins pollinating.
The current pollen count for the Washington area is close to 200, which is low compared with the counts of 1,000 to 2,000 that Craig said are not uncommon for the region.
Extremely sensitive people will be affected by counts as low as 20 or 30, Craig said.
McDaniel, the student, considers herself one of these people. But she can't resist enjoying the warm weather on campus.
"It's really a problem because now that it's warmer, I want to be outside," McDaniel said.
Her seasonal allergies have improved since she started immunotherapy shot treatments with a local allergist.