Special report: USA TODAY explores how climate change is affecting Americans in a series of stories this year.


From the roof of the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in the Chicago suburbs, an 83-year-old retired doctor finds troubling evidence of why so many people are sneezing and itching their eyes.

Joseph Leija counts the pollen and mold spores that collect on slides inside an air-sucking machine atop the six-story building. "There's been an increase, no doubt about it," he says of the 5 a.m. weekday counts that he's been doing as a volunteer for 24 years.

"My allergies are much worse than they used to be," says Amanda Carwyle, a mom of three who lives 95 miles south in Pontiac, Ill.

"We've definitely seen a big increase in patients," says allergist Brian Rotskoff, whose Clarity Allergy Center has offices a half-hour drive from where Leija counts pollen. Symptoms such as congestion, shortness of breath, coughing, runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes result when an allergic person inhales an allergen such as pollen, a plant's sperm, and overreacts by releasing histamine.

Sakina Bajowala, an allergist in nearby North Aurora, says she's also seen more patients with respiratory allergies.

Read full story from USA TODAY here....





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