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A sneeze is no laughing matter for some, especially to monkeys who befriend pachyderms. A few leopards have lost their spots, and zebras were subsequently stripped of their stripes because of a large elephant with allergic Rhinitis. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you have probably never read the classic children's book "Stand Back Said the Elephant, I'm Going to Sneeze". Written by Patricia Thomas, with illustrations by Wallace Tripp, "Stand Back" was one of my favorite books as a child.

The book was given to me by my 1st grade teacher- Mrs. Martin. I had been hospitalized with pneumonia, and missed a full week of school. Mrs. Martin visited me, and left a copy "Stand Back" with my mom. The story was delightfully funny nonsense about an elephant who announced to his animal friends that he was about to sneeze. Remembering the chaos that followed the elephant's previous sneezes, every animal in the kingdom ran for cover. To this day, I still read "Stand Back" to elementary school students during "Read Across America".

Being a seasonal allergy sufferer, I can certainly relate to Mr. Elephant. For those of you (like my wife) who think that allergy sufferers complain too much, you may not quite understand the true misery that springtime can bring to some of us. First of all, having "allergies" does not simply mean a few occasional sneezes. A good analogy is the common cold. Imagine the worst cold you ever had, complete with sore throat, cough, congestion, headache, and chills. For those of us with severe seasonal allergies, we essentially have a "bad cold" for 4-6 weeks. The only relief comes in the form of allergy medicines, most of which leave us so sleepy we don't even bother to take them in the first place.

If you are really unlucky, you may have chronic sinus problems in addition to your seasonal allergies. In this case, springtime greatly increases your chance of sinus infections, often requiring use of antibiotics. Sleep becomes almost impossible, as post nasal drip (the flow of mucus down your throat) gives you a constant sensation of drowning. Imagine trying to sleep while someone is pouring water down your throat, and you get the idea.

We have just emerged out of one of the warmest winters in recent memory here in southeastern NC. The allergy season started well ahead of schedule for most of us. In fact, early April was also rather warm. Temperatures were at least 5 degrees above normal on 4 out of 9 days, including 2 days with highs in the mid 80's in Wilmington. April is also the driest month of the year (climatologically speaking), so all of that wonderful pollen dust swirls around for days on end.

But have no fear, June is right around the corner- and the pollen woes will be subsiding. Then, all we have to worry about is hurricane season. On second thought, maybe spring isn't so bad after all...

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By: Jerry Jackson