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Allergy Season Hits Chicago Hard

By Kyla Gardner | September 8, 2013 9:06am
 Allergy season for mold and ragweed lasts from mid-September to late October or November in Chicago, an allergist said.
Allergy season for mold and ragweed lasts from mid-September to late October or November in Chicago, an allergist said.
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CHICAGO — Been feeling a little under the weather recently? You're not alone: Allergy season has hit Chicago, and hit it hard.

Outdoor Allergies

Mold levels are higher than normal due to extra moisture from rain this summer, said Giselle Mosnaim, an allergist and immunologist at Rush University Medical Center.

Though portions of July and August were unusually dry, June was exceptionally wet and torrential rain hit Chicago in late August, according to the National Weather Service.

Mold spores, which hide in the ground or damp home areas like kitchens or bathrooms, have been especially prevalent in the last week, according to the National Allergy Bureau.

It's also the season for ragweed, a Midwestern plant that is found in grass, along the side of the road and in parking lots, Mosnaim said.

"The combination of ragweed and mold has made it very difficult for allergy sufferers to be outdoors," she said.

Symptoms of mold and ragweed allergies are itchy, red, watery eyes, stuffy nose or runny nose, sneezing, excessive throat clearing, and upper palate itchiness, Mosnaim said. People with asthma can also experience wheezing and shortness of breath due to seasonal allergies.

Allergies are more common in children, and about 20 to 30 percent of the population suffer from allergies like ragweed, mold, pollen, dander and dust mites, Mosnaim said.

Indoor Allergens

Indoor allergen levels have also been high. Dust and dander levels are "extreme," in Chicago, according to AccuWeather.

Dust mites are found in certain furniture, bedding, stuffed animals, and curtains. Dander comes from furry pets such as cats and dogs. Both are more prevalent in humid conditions.

Indoor allergen symptoms are similar to those for mold and ragweed, but are more often stuffy and runny noses than itchiness, Mosnaim said.

Relieving Allergies

Combating both raised indoor and outdoor levels of allergens can be tricky, as spending more time inside or outside is usually a strategy for people who only suffer from one or the other.

"If you have an indoor allergy all year round, on top of that, because of the ragweed, you're being hit with multiple allergens at once," Mosnaim said.

Ways to relieve seasonal outdoor allergies are to take medications, keep windows closed, and avoid playing outdoor sports or exercising outside on days when levels for ragweed and mold are high, Mosnaim said.

To combat indoor allergens, people can put dust mite covers on bedding, keep pets out bedrooms, bathe pets and vacuum up pet dander.

Air conditioning can reduce humidity.

The End of Allergy Season

Though mold levels may rise as people begin to rake up damp leaves in the fall, seasonal allergy sufferers will see relief between Halloween and Thanksgiving, Mosnaim said.

Ragweed and mold levels are tempered by the first frost, and continue to lower as temperatures drop.

"The first frost brings a lot of relief," Mosnaim said.