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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Sick of sneezing and sniffling this season?

You’re not alone.

This spring has been brutal for seasonal allergy sufferers across Europe.

Thai Smith, a lead program assistant for the Vogelweh School Age Program, has contained his allergy symptoms this year with medication. He doesn’t want to imagine what would happen if he were to miss a single dose.

"Oh wow," he said. "I would have a difficult time just breathing."

This is the main season in Central Europe for those who are allergic to grass pollen.

A Web site that tracks pollen counts in Europe — www.polleninfo.org — reports higher than average counts of various pollens this year.

Germany, Italy and Belgium showed higher than normal grass pollen counts for the month of May, according to the site.

While the recent rain in Germany has helped some allergy sufferers, more sunny and dry weather could exacerbate the problem.

And, unfortunately for some, grass is everywhere in Central Europe.

Dr. (Maj.) Stephen Scranton, an allergist based at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, said this time of year is the peak season.

Scranton, one of only three U.S. military allergists based in Europe, said his office is seeing between 50 and 60 patients a week. But he sees only the worst-feeling patients who are referred to him by their primary doctors.

"We’re busy," he said. "We’re booked out into July already."

This allergy season seems to have started sooner than normal and is more intense, he added. Tree pollen began affecting patients as early as January, a month earlier than average.

So far, the southern Rhine River region of Germany has seen "super high" grass pollen levels.

Grass pollen typically affects those with allergies from April to late June.

Some people who never had allergies while living in the United States often find they do when they come to Europe. Scranton said one possible reason is because the pollen seems to be a little more concentrated in Europe compared to some parts of the United States.

"Everyone has their own unique triggers," said Scranton, who also battles allergies this time of year.

Smith has lived in Germany the last 10 years but didn’t develop any allergies until the last four or five.

He said last year was actually worse for him.

"Last year, I was almost dying," he said. "I needed some serious medication."

Once the allergic season for grass passes, that doesn’t mean people can put those tissues away for the year.

Those allergic to weeds are hit the worst in the fall.

Tips for grass-pollen allergy sufferers

Avoid going outdoors when pollen counts are at the highest.Wear sunglasses to keep pollen from getting in your eyes.Wash hands and face after going outside.When driving, close your windows and turn on your air conditioner. But switch to the button that allows you to re-circulate the air from within the car.Take over-the-counter antihistamines.If medication doesn’t seem to work, consult your doctor for additional treatment.Source: Dr. (Maj.) Stephen Scranton, allergist, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany


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