You are here

Today's weed pollen total the highest ever in history of Gottlieb Allergy Count

Dangerous air quality alert called

MAYWOOD, Ill. (May 13, 2014) –  A dangerous air quality alert was called today due to the extremely high weed count recorded for the Gottlieb Allergy Count.

“Today’s weed count is the highest I have recorded in the two decades of performing the official allergy count for the Midwest,” said Joseph Leija, MD, who started the Gottlieb Allergy Count at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, located outside Chicago.

The Gottlieb Allergy Count today is: trees – high; mold – high; grass – moderate; weeds –  very high/ dangerous air quality alert status.

“The weed count was more than 1,000 today and last year at this time the weed count was just 200,”  Dr. Leija said. “The most prevalent weed detected is urtica, or stinging nettle."

The reason for the unusual weed count? “Weeds tend to be heartier than other plants and after this extreme winter, people are seeing more weeds such as nettles popping up in their yards and fields,” Leija said. “Many Midwesterners took advantage of the nice weather this weekend and mowed lawns or did yard work, including pulling weeds, which can increase weed presence in the air."

In March,  at the start of the 2014 allergy reporting season, Dr. Leija predicted a pollen vortex.

“The pollen vortex and that noxious cyclone of allergens is here. All pollens except ragweed are now simultaneously at recordable levels triggering unhealthy reactions in those with sensitive breathing systems,” Leija said.

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, depending on dampness.

Leija said the continued back and forth between cold and warm temperatures combined with humidity, after the cold temperatures and snows of the polar vortex, have created what he calls the pollen vortex. “The traditional seasons for the different allergens have clumped together creating a solid front of recordable levels of pollens,” Leija said.

Every weekday morning at 4:30 a.m. for the past two decades, allergist Joseph Leija, MD, who is now 84, has climbed the stairs to the rooftop of a building on the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus. There he maintains a scientific pollen-catching machine originally developed in Britain during WW II to detect poison in the air. The machine records air particles in two-minute increments during a 24-hour period.

During the pollen-reporting season, which usually spans April to October, Dr. Leija takes the glass slide with the day’s catch and meticulously identifies and counts every spore under a microscope. He uses an algorithm created by the National Allergy Bureau to arrive at 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 Leija,  who supplies the media and the public with the count at no charge. “Several broadcast networks and Chicago’s largest newspaper report the Gottlieb Allergy Count daily so I am up at 4 a.m. to get the process started."

Dr. Leija is the only allergist certified by the National Allergy Bureau to report the official allergy count of the Midwest. His numbers are used by the association in their daily national reports of allergy activity.

The Gottlieb Allergy Count is available through via Twitter @GottliebAllergy, at and in English 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.

Media Relations

Stasia Thompson
Media Relations
Media Relations
(708) 216-8232