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Home » News » Cold, Mold And High Pollen Counts Trigger ER...

Cold, Mold And High Pollen Counts Trigger ER Visits

June 21, 2014

By Jay Mejia

The shifting North Polar Vortex in late 2013 and earlier this year that swooped down as a frigid mass of air into the Midwest combined with an unusually wet spring triggered an unusual increase in pollen counts and indoor mold.

The result has been more reports of respiratory ailments, according to local health officials.
“Tree pollen counts are the highest I can remember,” said Dr. Charles Barnes, a biochemist and director of the Allergy and Immunology Laboratory at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

The hospital has a collector on its roof that captures pollen and other airborne particles, is analyzed and results forwarded to the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), which reports air quality through its daily SkyCast.

“It’s been a particularly bad spring for pollen and mold,” said Amanda Graor, Air Quality program Manager for MARC. “The incredibly cold polar air brought in types of pollen we had not seen in a long time. The types and amounts of pollen, combined with the wet spring, have increased pollen counts and the risk of mold, especially in April and May.”

The good news, according to Graor, is that ozone levels are substantially down this year. Ozone can cause problems that mimic the symptoms of allergies.

While statistical evidence is not yet available, anecdotal evidence indicates that more people have been showing up at local hospital emergency rooms in Lee’s Summit due to respiratory ailments associated with recent high pollen and accumulated indoor mold.

At risk are the elderly, young children, and people with asthma and other respiratory issues. During high pollen count days, these groups of people are urged to take caution, refrain from outdoor activity and stay indoors until the count lowers.

Dr. Barnes said continued rainfall in the area could lead to more people having problems breathing, with shortness of breath and wheezing.

“If we continue to get considerable rain throughout the summer, we can expect to see higher spore potential,” Dr. Barnes said.

For people who are experiencing mold in their homes because of moisture buildup, Dr. Barnes urged caution.

“Mold is a strong activator of the innate immune system,” Dr. Barnes said. “Mold can cause breathing problems even for people who do not have allergy issues. Anyone can be susceptible to mold if there is enough buildup inside a home or building.”

If enough mold is prevalent, Dr. Barnes suggested replacing material such as drywall. “Drywall is exactly that, it’s supposed to be dry. If damp and moldy, tear it out and replace it and be sure to wear gloves and a mask.”

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