April brings in seasonal allergies

April 1, 2011 4:55:11 AM PDT
On Thursday, Dr Leija found cottonwood/tree spores, which is also what he found last year at this time.

Last year we had an early spring and unusually and dangerously high mold counts due to the flooding and heat/humidity. We also had heavy pollen due to the early spring which resulted in a "storm" of white downy cottonwood blossoms that blanketed Chicago like snow.

This year is expected to be very similar, even worse due to the very heavy snowfall of winter. Dr Leija expects another early spring with heavy pollen and lots of airborne cottonwood blossoms once the weather warms. He anticipates potential flooding and considerable mold again. He also warns that the poison ivy will be very bad and very plentiful this spring due to the moist conditions.

Global warming also is changing the weather and allergy landscape making allergy seasons last longer and have more intensity. Last year was especially windy and Dr Leija found non-native spores in Chicago at unusual times, blown in from the Eastern and the Southern states. If weather is very windy again this year, Chicagoans could experience infiltration of pollens again.

Chicago's air quality due to pollution also is continuing to grow worse and Dr Leija expects that irritants due to trains, planes, trucks and cars to continue to cause problems. Construction to repair roads, etc. also will play havoc with Chicagoans breathing health


There are allergens year round but in Chicago/the Midwest, common allergens surface in April (spring) and run through October, which is why the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the sole official count for the Midwest is offered. April - May - tree pollen will be prevalent - especially cottonwood, elm and maple in Chicagoland

June-July - Grass pollen is usually heavy
July - September - Weeds/Ragweed
September - October - Ragweed/Mold


Know Your Numbers - Knowing what allergens are in the air will help you determine your medication and strategies on how to plan your day. The Gottlieb Allergy Count is made available to the public this year through Twitter, as well as in English and Spanish through the Gottlieb Allergy Hotline (1-866-4-POLLEN and 1-866-ALERGIA) and at the Gottlieb Web site, www.GottliebHospital.org.

By knowing the counts for tree, grass, weed, mold, pollen and ragweed, allergy sufferers can control their symptoms through behavior modification and by tailoring their medication with the help of their physician.

See Your Allergist. Understand what you are allergic to (grass, pollen, mold, etc.) and make sure you have medication, inhalers, etc. on-hand to help you control your symptoms.

Minimize outdoor activity when counts are high. Peak pollen times are usually between 7 and 10 a.m.

Shut windows in your house as well as in your car and at the office on days when pollen counts are high. Use your air conditioner for temperature control instead.

When gardening or mowing the lawn, wear a filter mask, gloves and long sleeves/pants to minimize exposure.

When entering the home after being outside, remove clothing/shoes and place in a sealed bag to avoid contaminating your home. This goes for returning home from work, and all outside activities.

Wash your hair at night before sleeping to remove excessive pollen and potential allergens that could cause irritation.

Uncase your bedding (pillows and mattress) in sealable plastic covers to protect against dust mites, bed bugs and the like.

Do not use home air fresheners or popular home/car/room sprays. The perfume is a common irritant.

Do not have live plants in the home - in addition to producing pollen/blooms, mold grows in the soil, producing allergens.

Avoid using perfumed soaps, laundry detergent, fabric softener etc.

Hardwood floors or tile/linoleum is better than carpeting for those with respiratory conditions. Carpeting traps allergens like mold, pollen, etc. and is more difficult to clean


Make sure you do not self-medicate, but have your allergist properly diagnose your condition and offer accurate treatment. Allergy shots, inhalers, decongestants, antihistamines and nasal sprays are popular medications to treat allergies and asthma. Non-medication remedies that are very helpful include:

washing your nose - gently rinse the inside of your nostrils with saline solution to remove irritants

shower - the steam from the shower cleanses your breathing system and the water washes away allergens from your hair, etc.