“Today’s mold count for the Midwest was 30,000, just 10,000 short of the threshold for an alert warning,” said Joseph Leija, MD, the allergist who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official Midwest allergy count for the National Allergy Bureau. “This is the highest mold count I have seen this year.”
And that is just for the air outdoors.
“Many Midwesterners experienced flooding in their homes, which can easily cause indoor mold counts to be much higher – even to dangerous breathing conditions,” Dr. Leija warned. “The heat, the rain, now the pestilence of mold is making this a summer of biblical proportions in the world of allergies.”
Symptoms of respiratory irritation from mold include nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, headaches and post-nasal drip. “People with allergies must stay in air conditioning and use a dehumidifier,” Dr. Leija said.
Mold grows quickly in hot, humid or wet conditions.
“The Midwest has been battling hot, humid weather and outdoor mold spores have been relatively high, but now with the flooding caused by the recent rainfall, many homes are pure poison for those with breathing conditions,” Dr. Leija said. “All soaked drywall must be cut out and removed as well as carpets, tile, cardboard boxes and the like to prevent mold.”
Ironically, water is both the perpetrator for mold and the recommended cure. “Plain water should be used to wash off floors, walls and soaked items, and then everything must be dried thoroughly,” he said. Dr. Leija also recommends that allergy sufferers lightly rinse their nostrils with a saline solution to rinse out trapped particles and spores.
Black Mold Most Toxic
Not all molds are equally dangerous – black mold is the most toxic. “Coughing up blood, nosebleeds, vomiting, diarrhea and even memory loss and pulmonary hemorrhage are symptoms of toxic mold sickness,” Dr. Leija said. The very young, old and those with chronic conditions such as asthma are the most vulnerable.
Those employed as carpenters, carpet cleaners, handymen, plumbers and even gardeners are also at risk for toxic mold inhalation.
“The only way to tell if you suffer from mold allergy is by a skin test performed by an allergist,” Dr. Leija said. “Allergy shots, medications and antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays can help minimize symptoms.”
For more than two decades, Dr. Leija has performed the Gottlieb Allergy Count. Monday through Friday he gathers air samples at 5 a.m. from a special pollen-catching machine atop Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System. Using a microscope, Dr. Leija identifies and counts every single allergen in a process that can take more than one hour. He then uses National Allergy Bureau-dictated algorithms to arrive at the official allergy count for the Midwest.
The National Allergy Bureau incorporates the daily Gottlieb Allergy Count into its reports. The count is also posted on the Gottlieb Web site (GottliebHospital.org) and is available in English via a phone hotline at 866-4-POLLEN (866-476-5536). In addition, Gottlieb offers the count in English, Spanish and Polish on Twitter.
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 22 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, Loyola University Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It 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 Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.