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This year's allergy season worsened by severe winter

By Katie Demeria

A long, harsh winter may have done more than just shorten this year's spring -- according to allergists, it also worsened the allergy season.

Tonya Winders, CEO and president of the Allergy and Asthma Network: Mothers of Asthmatics, said this has been a bad springtime for allergy sufferers across the country.

"Anytime you have a very severe, cold winter, it allows the plants and grasses and trees to pollinate more in the springtime," Winders said.

Now, she continued, with summer approaching, allergy sufferers will have to deal with the pollen from summertime plants blossoming, as well, without much of a reprieve.

Allergies can be a trigger for individuals suffering from asthma, according to Rhonda Brooks, camp director of Camp SuperKids. Camp SuperKids is a Valley Health program in its 23rd year. It is designed specifically for asthmatic children from 6 to 12 years old.

"Our main focus is to teach them independence, and that asthma should not be a limiting factor with proper control. They can do whatever they want," Brooks said.

The camp is a mixture of both asthma education and normal, fun camp activities. The key is that children learn how to be outside, regardless of their allergies, while taking the proper precautions to ensure they have a good time.

"They're also around other kids with asthma, so they realize that they are not alone or isolated," Brooks added.

She said the camp serves the families, as well, in that parents' fears of having asthmatic children away from home are eased. Respiratory therapists, pharmacists and physicians are on site to ensure all the children are safe.

The key is teaching children to recognize their triggers, Brooks said. Sometimes allergies are a big trigger, physical activities or getting colds. Whatever that may be, participants are taught how to deal with their asthma while not limiting the fun they have.

Winders said taking the proper steps to learn what an allergy sufferer is allergic to by seeing a certified allergist, whether or not they are asthmatic, will help them understand the best treatment for them.

"If you know you're allergic to grasses and trees and want to be outside in the spring and summer weather, one of the key things to do is always wear a mask, especially if you're around freshly cut grass," she said.

Taking a shower before bed, she added, is also effective in controlling allergies. Throughout the day, she said, pollen settles on skin, clothing and hair.

"So if you disrobe and put your clothes in a different room outside the bedroom, you will get all that pollen off, and you'll have a safe sleep zone where you won't be breathing those things in throughout the evening," Winders said.

The best way to deal with allergies, she said, is through medications. While there is some anecdotal evidence indicating that eating local honey helps with allergies, there is nothing scientific to back up that claim, she said.

"The best thing is to know exactly what you're allergic to," Winders added. "That way you're not taking measures that are ineffective."

To register your child for Camp SuperKids, call 540-536-7488.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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