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This allergy season is something to sneeze about

Dr. Joseph Leijwho is only persauthorized perform pollen count for Midwest behalf National Allergy Bureau  looks slide containing various

Dr. Joseph Leija, who is the only person authorized to perform the pollen count for the Midwest on behalf of the National Allergy Bureau, looks at a slide containing various kinds of pollen and mold samples he finds in his work on Monday, April 15, 2013. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: May 17, 2013 6:08AM

Allergy sufferers, you’re likely in for another rough season, but not as bad as last year, Chicago’s longtime allergen measurer said.

With the erratic weather Chicago has had so far, it’s hard to make a solid prediction, said Dr. Joseph Leija, still the only person authorized to perform the pollen count for the Midwest on behalf of the National Allergy Bureau and a retired allergist at Loyola University Health System’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

But Leija said, “It will be more likely, [with it] warming up [and] with all this rain and all this snow that we’ve had ... to produce quite a bit of pollen for the trees, the grass and everything else.”

Even so, he’s not expecting to see people with allergies suffer as much as they did last year.

“Last year was a special year,” he said, pointing to the unusually high temperatures in February and March.

This year, on the other hand, February was one of the snowier on record in Chicago, while April is one of the wettest. And right now, Chicago area residents are seeing a chilly spring. More spring-like temperatures in the 60s and above appears to be on the way, though.

Pollen, a fine powder released by trees, grasses and weeds, travels best on warm, dry, breezy days. But rain is needed to help trees and grasses grow.

The official start of the allergy count this year for the National Allergy Bureau, the pollen count, was March 18.

Every weekday of the allergy season, Leija, an octogenerian, climbs the stairs to the roof atop Gottlieb Memorial Hospital at 6 a.m. and measures mold, pollen and other irritants. He’s been in charge of monitoring for the last two decades.

Tips from Leija to minimize allergies include 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.

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