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Achoo! Winterish spring kicks up misery for pollen-haters

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In a case of adding insult to injury, the misery of the harsh winter is being followed by a misery-inducing spring for those who suffer from allergies and hay fever.

The Star Tribune reports the cold and high winds we'd like to put in the rear view mirror are producing more pollen all than is typically the case. That mean sniffles, sneezes, stuffy noses, coughing and itchy eyes for those who suffer from the seasonal complaints.

The newspaper said that a pollen counter near the office of Dr. Richard Bransford, who practices with the Twin Cities area Allergy and Asthma Specialists, noted intense pollen activity this season. One day last week, the readout showed pollen levels as high as eight times the average for an ordinary season — and well into the range for what is considered high levels of pollen.

Time magazine explained that as temperatures (finally) warm up, pollinating trees will be busy catching up and will spew higher than average amounts of allergens into the spring air. In addition, all the moisture in the ground is making muddy and moist soil. That could lead to more mold, and mold spores can trigger respiratory problems related to both allergies and asthma.

WCCO reports that allergists recommend wearing sunglasses to keep pollen out eyes and showering to wash all that pollen off skin and hair. In addition, be mindful of when to be outdoors.

“Pollen is typically higher in the morning. You want to be outside…later in the day when pollen counts are typically lower,” Dr. Clifford Bassett said.

Just in time, Reuters reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a new grass pollen allergy drug. Grastek from Merck & Co is the second immunotherapy treatment to be given the go-ahead in recent weeks. Immunotherapies work by boosting the body's immune system to make it less sensitive to allergens. The drug, approved for patients age 5 to 65, is expected to get its U.S. launch later this month.

Merck has said it sees a potential U.S. market of nearly 3 million patients.

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