By Tim Williams

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s official: this year’s allergy season is worse than usual.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans are reporting allergies this spring and, as Tim Williams reports, the problems may be just getting started.

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“What happens is you inhale them. It’s what causes inflammation. It’s why you have nasal congestion. You can have a runny nose, as well,” said Dr. Alvin Sanico.

Sanico is the director of the Asthma Sinus Allergy program at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He agrees with recent health surveys that report more Americans being sick with allergies on any given day this March and April than during the peak of the allergy seasons the last two years.

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“In the past years, the pollen season doesn’t really start until March but this year, primarily because of the fact winter was extremely mild, the pollen count started going up as early as February, so people have been caught by surprise,” Sanico said.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows nearly one in five Americans had allergies in March and the April illness levels are closer to May levels, which are traditionally higher. The doctor advises to medicate sooner to allow your body time to build resistance and to minimize exposure.

“Using air conditioning system. Keep the window closed at home or where they’re traveling and, at the end of the day after you spend time outdoors, take a good shower. Wash away whatever pollen may get stuck on you,” Sanico said.

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Doctors expect the allergy rates to drop this summer before rising again in the fall.

Tim Williams