Reporting Mai Martinez
CHICAGO (CBS) – The enjoyable temperatures and sunny skies lately have been a welcome respite from the heat wave Chicago went through last month, but another factor in our recent weather has been making plenty of people sick.
Lots of people have been suffering from splitting headaches, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats, all because of the highest mold levels in the Chicago area in a decade.
CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports the high mold levels have prompted an air quality alert, and left many allergy sufferers feeling miserable.
The trees and flowers in Grant Park might be in full bloom, but what park visitors can’t see is all the mold spores floating around in the air.
Allergists say a high mold county is any level between 13,000 and 50,000. On Monday, the area’s mold count hit more than 125,000 – about triple the level that will prompt an official air quality alert for mold.
A machine on the roof of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital measures how polluted the air in the Chicago area is, and according to Dr. Joseph Leija the news for allergy sufferers isn’t good.
Leija said Monday’s level hit a staggering 125,826.
“This is the first time in years, and I have been doing this pollen count for the past 10 years,” he said.
Leija said many factors are to blame.
“Humidity, the rain that has been around – not here in this area, but what happens is the wind brings quite a bit of pollen and mold to our area,” he said.
Allergy sufferers like Anne Forsythe said they don’t need numbers to tell them it’s worse this year.
“My allergies have been bad. Itchy eyes, sneezing a lot, and always rubbing and itching my nose,” Forsythe said.
Gottlieb allergist Dr. Rachna Shah said Forsythe is not alone.
“People are complaining more about itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, a lot of nasal congestion too,” she said.
Shah said patients often confuse allergies for a summer cold. Once they’ve been diagnosed, it’s easier to treat.
With mold counts as high as they are, Shah said there’s also one simple thing everyone should do after spending time outside.
“The simple thing of coming home, taking a shower, washing your hair can be really helpful,” she said.
Allergists also advise keeping your windows closed at home, and in the car, and using air-conditioning instead. You can also use a neti pot to relieve your allergy symptoms.