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High mold levels prompt third air quality alert of the allergy season

MAYWOOD, Ill. (Aug. 25, 2014) – The heavy rains, hot temperatures and high dew point have triggered an air quality alert for dangerous levels of mold in the Midwest.

“The interior mold exposure for homes that experienced flooding or water seepage will be even more toxic,” warned Joseph Leija, MD, an allergist who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official daily allergy count for the Midwest.

Today’s Gottlieb Allergy Count is: trees - none, grass - low, mold - very high (dangerous air quality alert), weeds - high and ragweed - moderate.

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.

In the U.S. 1 in 5 people have either allergy or asthma symptoms and 55 percent test positive for one or more allergies.  Less than half of those with asthma reported being taught how to avoid triggers, according to the American Academy of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). Of the half that are taught, 50 percent report not following the advice.

“Staying indoors in a mold-free environment, running the air conditioner, taking allergist-prescribed medication and keeping an inhaler at the ready will help safeguard health and prevent attacks,” said Leija, who completes AAAAI certification every year. The Gottlieb Allergy Count is reported daily on the AAAAI website. “Those with asthma and allergies will likely struggle to breathe normally today and their already sensitive systems will be traumatized due to the high mold levels and the presence of other allergens."

Allergies negatively affect more than individual patients. Allergies cost an estimated $7.9 billion each year when factoring in missed work days, medical bills, over-the-counter medications and prescribed drugs, said Leija, who retired from practice in 2012 after five decades of practice. “Workdays missed yearly due to allergies are a reported $4 million."

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 and grain of pollen 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.

Dr. Leija is the only allergist in the Midwest certified by the  AAAAI to report the official allergy count of the Midwest. He follows a complex series of algorithms to arrive at the daily allergy count and his numbers are used by the association in their daily national reports of allergy activity.

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
Media Relations
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