Allergy season nothing to sneeze at

2013-05-12T19:00:00Z 2013-05-12T23:28:03Z Allergy season nothing to sneeze atLU ANN FRANKLIN Times Correspondent
May 12, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

If you are sneezing, coughing, have itchy swollen eyes and feel tired all the time, you’re in good company.

Those same symptoms are driving droves of Chicago-area residents to the doctor, the pharmacy and the cough/cold aisle in stores everywhere. It’s the worst allergy season within memory in the Midwest, according to allergists and Chicago weather experts.

On Tuesday last week, the area’s pollen values surged to the highest levels of the year, said WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling in his Chicago Weather Center Weather Blog.

“Tree, grass and weed pollen were all reported as ‘high’ Tuesday. Tree pollen reached 1,000 grains per cubic yard – just 500 below the ‘alert level’ of 1,500,” Skilling reported on the website

The meteorologist quoted Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist at Chicago’s Loyola Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and provider of the WGN pollen counts.

Although grass pollen dropped by Saturday to “moderate,” the weed and tree pollen counts remained “high” with the top culprits being maple, birch and ash, said CBS meteorologist Mary Kay Kleist during the evening TV broadcast.

The problem is the slow start of spring this year along with the huge rainfalls which brought out tree pollen at the same time that grass and weed pollen were surging, Leija said.

Northwest Indiana allergist Dr. Kenneth Blumenthal agreed.

“There was a delayed spring this year. The last two weeks, there’s been an explosion of tree pollen. It doesn’t have to be trees in your yard. Pollen can be carried 75 to 100 miles in the wind,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said he’s seeing an increase in patients with seasonal allergy symptoms at his offices in Crown Point, Portage and Valparaiso.

In fact, he said, many people who have never experienced severe seasonal allergies are now seeking treatment.

Tree pollen tends to cause nasal symptoms and swollen, red and itchy eyes, he said. The symptoms are caused by antibodies released by the body’s immune system in reaction to the allergen exposure.

However, it’s the severity of the fatigue people are feeling that’s making life really miserable, Blumenthal said.

“It’s a major quality of life issue,” he said.

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