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Mold count triggers dangerous air quality alert for second consecutive day

MAYWOOD, Ill. (Aug. 21, 2014) – A dangerous air quality alert was called today for the second day in a row due to an extremely high level  for mold in the Gottlieb Allergy Count.

“Today’s mold count is over the 50,000 threshold for an air quality alert but not as high as yesterday’s 80,000 count,” said Joseph Leija, MD, who started the Gottlieb Allergy Count at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, located outside Chicago.  The Gottlieb Allergy Count is the official allergy count for the Midwest.

The Gottlieb Allergy Count for today is: mold - very high (dangerous air alert status), grass - low, weeds - high and ragweed - moderate. “Sneezing, a runny nose and fatigue is what many Chicagoans are experiencing this week,” Dr. Leija said. “With the continued rain today and warmer temperatures, allergy suffering is not going away."

What are some tips for allergy survival?

“If you have allergies, take your medication, consult your allergist, keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner to filter out allergens,” Leija said. He also recommended rinsing nasal passages with saline solution to remove irritants.

Typical pollen seasons are: trees from March to May, grass from May to June, weeds/ragweed from mid-August to October and mold all season long, depending on dampness.

Leija said the hot, humid weather along with rain have created the dangerous spike in mold spores. “The pollen vortex is here and Midwesterners are in the eye of the storm,” Leija said. “Mold is dangerously high, but weeds are high, too. While ragweed is moderate, the low grass count is occurring outside of its normal allergy season, which causes irritation."

Every weekday morning at 4:30 a.m. for the past two decades Dr. Leija has climbed the stairs to a  rooftop on the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus, located just outside of Chicago. There he maintains a scientific pollen-catching machine developed in Britain during World War II to detect poison in the air. The machine records air particles in two-minute intervals during a 24-hour period.

Dr. Leija, 84, takes the glass slide with the day’s catch and meticulously identifies and counts every spore using a microscope. He uses an algorithm created by the National Allergy Bureau to calculate the official allergy count for the Midwest by 7 a.m.

“People with respiratory conditions need to know the allergy count early in the morning so they can take the right medication and make adjustments in their routine to improve their health,”  said Dr. Leija, who provides the media and the community with the numbers at no charge. Several broadcast networks and Chicago’s largest newspaper report the Gottlieb Allergy Count daily so Leija rises at 4 get the process started.

The Gottlieb Allergy Count is available via Twitter @GottliebAllergy, and at 1-866-4-POLLEN (476-5536).

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Stasia Thompson
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