Weather Updates

‘Pollen tsunami’ makes allergy season even worse

Updated: June 22, 2013 6:23AM

In what’s being called a “pollen tsunami,” this allergy season is now expected to be even rougher than last year for allergy sufferers, Chicago’s longtime allergen measurer said Monday.

Last month, Dr. Joseph Leija had predicted that 2013 would be a rough allergy season, but not as bad as last year.

But “the warm, humid temperatures over the weekend served as an incubator for mold, grass, weeds and trees, and this is the highest count of the 2013 reporting season,” said Leija, a retired allergist at Loyola University Health System’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and still the only person authorized to perform the pollen count for the Midwest on behalf of the National Allergy Bureau.

He added that “the pollen from the trees and the weeds is just exorbitant. I thought last year was the worst because it was quite early, but, really, now has been very persistent and the counts have been very high.”

The pollen grains and mold spore counts — which account for seasonal allergies — were high on Monday for trees, grass, mold and weeds. Specifically, trees had a count of 133 grains, grass of 27 grains, mold of 13,894 spores, weeds of 350 grains.

Last year on this same date, by comparison, trees had a moderate count of 68 pollen grains, grass had a moderate count of 17, mold had a low count of 3,687 spores and weeds had a moderate count of 14. Allergy season runs from April through October.

Leija said he has already seen the effect on allergy sufferers: patients complaining of watery, itchy eyes and scratchy throats.

“It’s really something, very, very difficult,” he said.

To minimize symptoms, Leija suggests washing your hair before sleeping at night, staying inside in air-conditioning and rinsing nasal passages with saline solution to remove trapped particles. Allergy medication can also help.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.