Just when you thought your allergies were going away, they pull you right back in! The pollen count may be going down, but now is the time indoor allergies come to light.
“Of the 21.8 million people who have asthma in the US, approximately 4.6 million cases are estimated to be attributable to dampness and mold exposure in the home.” (EPA & Berkeley National Laboratory)
It turns out that there is a large part of the US population that suffers from mold-and fungus related symptoms. Have you been thinking lately that you are one of them? There’s a good chance you are, but what exactly does that mean?
Well, molds are fungi that are found almost everywhere, both indoors and outdoors all year round. Their job is to play the role of nature’s decomposer, breaking down organic matter. You may be wondering how these spores then get into your home, even if it is seemingly airtight. Unfortunately, fungi are equal opportunity invaders. It doesn’t matter the age of your house- mold and fungi are bound to share your living space. Fungi reproduce by releasing microscopic spores into the air, which can enter your home through windows, doors, cracks, and vents. That’s right- it is essentially impossible to live in a structure without molds’ presence.
However, mold spores can only thrive in dampness. This is because they need moisture to grow (they like the dark too). That is why fungi are commonly found on fallen leaves and grass, around the yard, in garbage cans, on carpets and upholstered furniture and of course in bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and ventilation.
Sensitivity/Allergy to Mold- What’s bothering you
Now, what does it mean to have an allergy to mold? Simply put, when you inhale the mold spores, your body considers them to be an intruder and in turn produces allergy-causing antibodies to combat them. Then, when the exposure ends, “the body continues to produce antibodies that ‘remember’ this invader, so any subsequent contact with mold causes the immune system to react,” thus triggering the release of substances such as histamines (Mayo Clinic).
The good news is that sensitivity to mold varies from person to person. This means that while one person may react severely to varying mold levels or a particular type of mold, these same factors could trigger no symptoms in another person. In addition, there are many different types of fungi, but only certain kinds have been found to trigger allergy symptoms. The most common types of mold that trigger these reactions are Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium. The symptoms that can occur as a result include:
- Eye irritation
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Asthmatic episodes
- Eczema & skin irritations
- Nasal & sinus congestion
- Joint & muscle aches or pains
In general, the groups of people that tend to be the most susceptible to mold and fungus sensitivity are infants and young children, the elderly, individuals with a compromised immune system and people with existing respiratory problems, including allergies and asthma.
What you should do next
Controlling the moisture in your home should be the first step you take, as it is the most effective way of preventing mold growth. Humidity levels above 60% can promote mold growth, so you should aim to keep the levels around 50% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier. In addition, implement the use of exhaust vents in bathrooms during showers and baths, as well as in cooking areas. This will allow the steam to escape to outside, instead of getting trapped indoors and raising the humidity level.
Also, avoid the use of indoor drying lines or racks. If you must dry clothes by hanging them indoors, try to use a fan that is directed at them to dissipate the humidity and decrease the likelihood of any mold growing on the clothing. This technique will also help your clothing dry faster! A couple of other tips you should follow are to use your air conditioning and dehumidifier during rainy seasons and to check your AC and heating system vents at regular intervals to make sure they are mold free and working properly. By taking these precautions, you can ensure that your home and surroundings will be as mold-free as possible.
If you suffer from an allergy to mold and fungus, make an appointment with Dr. Ian Wahl at St. Louis Allergy Relief Centers. Our goal is to help relieve you of your allergies symptoms so that you can go on living life to the fullest.
Check out our other blog posts for more information on allergies, sensitivities and allergy relief through AAT!
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