Year-around allergies? Maybe its mold. Mold is a common allergen that is both indoors & out. Mold, also known as fungus, is a family of organisms that are found throughout nature. Mold grows in units called mycelium and reproduce through the formation of spores. Spores frequently become airborne, and like pollen, can cause allergic disease.
Mold grows abundantly outside, in rotting logs, moist leaves, and many damp areas. Inside the home, mold flourishes in areas that are warm, moist, and dimly lit. Watch out for mold growth in areas like damp basements, crawlspace, and closets, bathrooms (especially shower stalls & behind tile), places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air-conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pillows.
“Very often, people don’t really know what the problem is,” says John Martyny, PhD, an industrial hygienist with National Jewish Health Center in Denver. “They have an allergic reaction, lots of sinus drainage, lots of upper respiratory problems, and it doesn’t last for just a month or two. This goes on 12 months a year. It is not a minimal problem — it can really change your life.”
The trouble could come from a mold allergy, when mold spores trigger reactions like allergic rhinitis or asthma. Molds can also produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — the musty odor that irritates eyes, nose, and throat.
The most common symptoms associated with mold allergies are:
- Nasal stuffiness
- Eye irritation
- Aggravation of asthma symptoms
- Cold and flu like symptoms
It may be hard to get a mold allergy correctly diagnosed. “Very often, the root of the problem isn’t identified correctly,” Martyny says. “People have these symptoms, but they don’t realize they have a moisture and mold problem at home. If you get rid of the allergens — the mold — people get better, and they get better pretty fast.”
If you live in a warm moist climate, mold outside is nearly impossible to avoid. However, there are measures you can take to help eliminate mold inside your home.
- Get your house tested for mold. A moisture meter test will help. Also, a dust sample from your carpet can show whether mold spores are in your home. Check with your state health department about mold testing. Or look in the yellow pages for environmental testing, Martyny suggests.
- Prevent outdoor molds from entering the home by keeping doors and windows closed and using air conditioning equipped with allergen-grade air filters.
- Control indoor moisture with the use of dehumidifiers.
- Utilize HEPA-filters on vacuums or as a stand-alone air filter.
- Ensure adequate ventilation of moist areas.
- Fix water leaks in bathrooms, kitchens and basements.
- If your crawl space has mold, call an environmental service to get rid of it.
- Check inside drywall for mold inside the wall. You can usually smell mold even if you can’t see it. Moldy drywall must be cut out and replaced. Moldy insulation also must be removed and replaced.
- If ceiling tiles or carpet have become moldy, they must be replaced. Throw out all wet, moldy tiles and carpeting.
- Clean (or replace) contaminated surfaces with a diluted chlorine bleach solution (one part household bleach in 9 parts water), while using proper protective gear (mask and goggles) and plenty of ventilation. Some people also recommend vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Non-toxic cleaners are also available. Allow areas to dry completely.
- Add insulation to windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors where there is potential for condensation on cold surfaces.
- Limit indoor houseplants, and ensure those that are present are free of mold on leaves and in potting soil.
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This article was compiled from the following sources: