Newswise — Those in the Midwest with sensitive respiratory systems will find relief beginning Monday, March 16 as the Gottlieb Allergy Count kicks off its first report of 2015. The Gottlieb Allergy Count is the official daily allergy count for the Midwest.

“I have conducted initial testing and am detecting pollen in the air, which may be triggering sneezing and itchy skin in allergy sufferers,” said Joseph Leija, MD, retired allergist who is solely certified by the National Allergy Bureau to conduct the official allergy count. “The prolonged, fierce winter may mean that tree, grass and mold spores appear simultaneously early in the season causing a triple threat.” Dr. Leija has been monitoring the air every day for the past week to prepare for the start of the allergy count.

Dr. Leija is predicting a bad allergy season due to the long cold winter, which brought heavy snow. “Heavy snow means lots of moisture to nourish budding trees and plant life. The continued dampness also fosters the growth of mold,” said Dr. Leija, who has performed the Gottlieb Allergy Count for more than two decades. He documents the amount of tree, grass, weeds, ragweed and mold in the air.

“While we spring forward for Daylight Savings Time, people with allergies or breathing difficulties should be proactive now to preserve health. Consult your allergist, have the ducts cleaned on your air conditioning system and start taking your allergy medicine so that when things really heat up, you are protected,” said Dr. Leija. He also recommends keeping windows closed to preserve air quality.

Dr. Leija, a national expert in allergies and respiratory conditions, retired in 2012. However, he continues to conduct the Gottlieb Allergy Count as a public health service to help those who suffer from allergies and asthma better manage their condition. He performs the daily count during the normal allergy reporting season, from March to October.

An octogenarian, the retired allergist rises before dawn to collect specimens from his pollen-catching machine atop a building on the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus to deliver the count to the public by 7 a.m. The Chicago Tribune and many area broadcast stations regularly report the Gottlieb Allergy Count throughout allergy reporting season. The Gottlieb Allergy Count is available via Twitter @GottliebAllergy, at the allergy page on and at 1-866-4-POLLEN (476-5536).