Polar Vortex Soon to be Replaced By “Pollen Vortex”

“Chicagoans who suffer from mold and tree allergies will be down for the count today”

If you see people walking around this week with red, watery eyes, it’s not necessarily because of the start of baseball season. According to a local allergy specialist, it’s because the polar vortex is about to be replaced with a “pollen vortex.”

Along with the start of baseball, allergy season kicked off Monday, according Dr. Joseph Leija, who performs the daily Gottlieb Allergy Count every morning atop Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, according to a statement from Loyola University Health System.

If you are an allergy sufferer, Leija says you could begin feeling the symptoms soon.

“Chicagoans who suffer from mold and tree allergies will be down for the count today,” Leija said in the statement. “Itchy eyes and post nasal drip are what many will be experiencing.”

The official count for the first day of the season was “Trees Low and Mold Low,” and while Monday’s count, which is seeing mainly oak and maple pollen, was an improvement from a year ago, things will be changing for the worse as soon as warm weather takes hold, he said.

“Last year at this time, we reported three times the tree pollen due to the early spring warm up,” said Leija, who is predicting a bad allergy season.

“The polar vortex will likely cause a pollen vortex,” he said in the statement, “with mold, tree and even grass pollens happening simultaneously due to the final break in the weather and all the nourishing moisture.”

The doctor, who has been doing the official count for more than two decades, said while allergy season is late this year because of the frigid weather, it’s not too soon to start taking proactive maneuvers.

“Preventative measures such as keeping windows closed to preserve air quality and proactively taking allergy medication with the guidance of a certified allergist will help maintain and improve health,” he said. “If you’re sneezing and itching, you’re having allergy symptoms.”

Dr. Leija, a retired allergist, is the only person certified by the National Allergy Bureau to perform the daily Midwest count, generally through October, from equipment atop the hospital.

Daily pollen count can be accessed on Twitter, online at gottliebhospital.org or by calling (866) 476-5536.

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