A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Molding away in dusty Mildew-ville

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Sept. 9, 10 or 11

When the allergy index combines with the heat, the Midwest isn’t exactly Margaritaville, but it seems like we’re wasting away nonetheless, sneezing and coughing and wondering about ragweed and pollen along with heat and drought.

The weather’s so weird, it’s like a movie.

“Mildew and mushrooms and mold! Oh, my!”

“The Wizard of Ah (CHOO!).”

I don’t suffer with allergies or asthma like some. But the mold certainly contributes to my Epic Snoring (which can be bad; a few years ago I was with a group of 10 men bunking in a makeshift dorm during a church mission trip to Haiti, and they said if I didn’t sleep on my stomach they were “voting me off the island”).

Anyway, the Gottlieb Allergy Count – the official allergy count for the Midwest – early last month, warned that the mold count was 35,000, a high for the year.

At that point.

However, that was surpassed like a cat nap on Sleep Apnea Day when, at the end of August, its alert reached 53,000, a new high for 2013 and well above the 50,000 threshold that signals a dangerous air-quality warning.

“Outdoor air may cause headaches, congestion and runny noses to those with sensitive respiratory systems,” said Dr. Joseph Leija, the allergist who’s done the Gottlieb Allergy Count for more than two decades. “Keep windows closed and run the air conditioner to improve air quality.

“The 90-degree heat, the humidity and the noxious levels of mold combined with the high levels of weed and ragweed pollen to spell health hazards for many in the Midwest,” he added. “Children are going back to school and many may have their first sick day of the year due to breathing problems.”

The official Gottlieb Allergy Count for that first day of school, August 26, was: Grass – Moderate, Mold – Very High and Air Alert Status, Weeds – High, and Ragweed – High.

Leija, who practices at Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, is exclusively certified by the National Allergy Bureau to perform the daily allergy count for the Midwest.

He’s a busy guy.

Besides staying inside, shutting windows and running air conditioners, ideas Leija suggests include people rinsing their nasal passages with saline solution (to remove trapped particles people breathe in) and washing their hair before sleeping at night (to reduce shedding skin from your scalp and inhaling it).

In the meantime, don’t look for this month’s change in season to help much, he said.

“The Midwest is moving into Fall, and we are seeing more rain mixed with sunny, warm and humid temperatures – which encourages mold growth,” he said. “The temptation today is to open the windows and let the cooler air in, but for allergy sufferers, the air is not fresh but loaded with toxins.”


The Gottlieb Allergy Count is scheduled to be calculated until October 15 for the 2013 allergy reporting season.


[PICTURED: Cover shot from Seth Casteel's wonderful hardback, Underwater Dogs (Little, Brown and Co.); highly recommended]

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