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 experiencing flooding or water seepage will be even more toxic," warns Joseph Leija, MD, allergist who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official daily allergy count for the Midwest.
The Gottlieb Allergy Count for August 25 is No Trees, Grass Low, Mold Very High - Dangerous Air Quality Alert status, Weeds High and Ragweed Moderate.
One in five people in the U.S. have either allergy or asthma symptoms and 55 percent test positive for one or more allergies. Less than half of people 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, fifty 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," says Leija, who completes certification every year with the AAAAI. 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 and also presence of other allergens."
Allergies negatively impact more than the individual. "Allergies cost the health care system an estimated $7.9 billion annually,"says Leija, who retired from practice in 2012 after five decades of practice. "Workdays missed yearly due to allergies are a reported four million."
Every weekday morning at 4:30 a.m., for the past two decades, now 84-year-old allergist Joseph Leija, MD, has climbed the stairs to the rooftop of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, located just outside Chicago. There he maintains a scientific pollen-catching machine developed in Britain during WW II to detect poison in the air. The machine records air particles in 2- minute increments during a 24-hour period.
Dr Leija takes the glass slide with the day's catch - during pollen reporting season, usually April through October - and under a microscope in his office, meticulously identifies and counts every spore. 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," says the allergist who supplies area members of the media, as well as the general public, the numbers 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 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.
American Academy of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology