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It's been a (ah, ah, AHHHH-CHOOOO!) miserable year for allergy sufferers.

While pollen counts have not been appreciably higher than other years, an early spring and dry and windy summer have left thousands of red-eyed, stuffy and sneezing Utahns grabbing for the tissues and antihistamines."Allergies are always bad this time of year, but this season has been really strange because we started so early," said Carol Maw, administrator of the Intermountain Allergy & Asthma Clinic.

"It makes the allergy season a little worse when you have to live with them longer," she added.

The early transition from winter to spring caused trees to blossom two to four weeks early this year, and the onset of allergy season corresponded. Then grasses greened and contributed their irritants to the atmosphere.

And now weeds are the villains responsible for those allergy attacks.

This summer's lack of moisture, coupled with the usual windiness, compounded problems by increasing pollen's mobility. The microscopic irritants can easily travel 200 miles, she said.

"If it rains, pollen is held down and it isn't so bothersome," she said. "If the wind's blowing, you don't have to worry just about what's going on in your own back yard, you have to worry about what's going on in St. George."

To make matters worse, allergies beget other ailments.

"Allergy sufferers are prone to sinus infections, ear infections and even asthma," said Dr. Betty Petrak of the University of Utah Health Sciences Center Allergy Clinic.