With the increase in rainy weather and flooding in the region, many homes, workplaces and even cars may have issues with mold. And if you’re sensitive to mold, its presence can lead to health problems that can masquerade as another condition like hay fever or a cold.
What are Molds?
Mold is a growth of fungus that is typically found in warm, moist conditions. They can live indoors and outdoors. Molds spread when their spores, tiny one-celled reproductive units too small to be seen by the naked eye, multiply.
Mold spores can become airborne – and when they land on a surface that is warm and wet, they grow. Mold appears as patches of black, brown, yellow, or green fuzzy growths. It often appears after some type of water intrusion like basement flooding from rain, a burst pipe or a leaky roof has occurred. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mold growth can happen very quickly.
You may recall seeing mold as the black substance that grows in the grout on bathroom or shower stall tiles, or growing on clothes that have been packed away in a damp closet or basement.
Mold can also live in air ducts, on drywall, inside vents or underneath carpeting. You can find mold in appliances or on or inside furniture. Most recently, front-loading washers have been found to harbor mold around the door gaskets. Outdoors mold can be found on leaves, compost piles, and in wooded areas.
There are different types of mold but the common household types include:
Some molds produce a toxic substance known as mycotoxins, though mold is not poisonous or toxic on its own. It is believed that mycotoxins cause the body’s inflammatory processes to accelerate, resulting in a host of uncomfortable symptoms.
Infants, children, the elderly, and people with asthma, lung disease or compromised immune systems are most susceptible to mold allergies.
What Are the Symptoms of Mold Exposure?
Breathing in mold spores or having physical contact with mold growth can lead to symptoms that mimic an allergy attack or a cold such as:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Skin irritation
- Irritated throat
You may also experience nasal or sinus congestion, respiratory tract infections, and in rare cases, a nose bleed. Severe reactions can include shortness of breath, chest tightness, fatigue, dizziness or headaches.
How to Get Relief from Mold Exposure Symptoms
The best way to alleviate mold exposure symptoms is, of course, to eliminate the culprit. That will mean cleaning up the mold that might exist in your home or office – and plugging up any source of water intrusion.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water. (Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for use.) Additionally, it’s important to keep humidity levels low using an air conditioner or dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air. You can also use a HEPA air purifier can help remove mold spores from the air. The CDC also suggests avoiding using carpeting in bathrooms or basements, and remove or replace wet carpets and upholstery.
For additional tips on preventing mold and mildew in your home, visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Consult with a general health provider on the best way to mitigate the physical symptoms. It may be necessary to see a specialist such as an allergist who specializes in mold allergies.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Environmental Protection Agency
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America