Still stuck with itchy eyes, sniffles and other allergy symptoms even though spring has come and gone? If you thought you had your allergies in check, but are still experiencing problems, mold lurking in your indoor and outdoor environment may be to blame. Many people suffer as a result of mold exposure without realizing that the tiny spores are the culprit.
If you have an allergic sensitivity to mold, exposure can cause symptoms similar to pollen allergies. These can include coughing, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, dripping or stuffed nose and itchy nose and throat. Asthmatics who also have mold allergies can suffer from severe asthma attacks after exposure, cautions the Mayo Clinic. Allergic reactions are not the only possible problems that can result from mold lurking in your environment; contact can also lead to infections, irritations and toxic reactions.
Infections can resemble the flu or pneumonia and even cause skin symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Irritations result from the mold’s ability to release airborne compounds that interact with your body’s mucous membranes, causing allergy-like symptoms. This means that even if you do not directly touch any mold, it can still affect your health. You can easily tell the difference between an allergy and an irritant reaction because allergies become progressively worse with continued exposure while an irritation will remain constant.
Toxic reactions to mold are more serious than allergies or irritations. Consuming or breathing in substances called mycotoxins can cause similar symptoms to an irritation, but also include headache, dizziness and severe fatigue. Psychological symptoms may also be present including nervousness and difficulty concentrating.
Now that you know about the harmful potentials of mold, how can you prevent them? The Mayo Clinic suggests that you leave windows closed on cool and damp nights to prevent airborne mold spores from entering your home, as these are the times when spores are most concentrated. You may also want to avoid going outdoors during these cool, wet conditions such as right after a rainstorm or during a period of heavy fog cover. Wearing a dust mask is a great idea when raking leaves, mowing your lawn or doing other yard work. This can help prevent inhalation of mold spores.
Checking your local weather is a great way to find out which days have particularly high mold concentrations, just as you would with pollen. It’s easier to change your plans before you head outside for your hike, rather than once you begin to feel ill.
Just as many people take medications to control their pollen and plant allergies, there are treatments available for those who suffer from mold-induced symptoms. Treatment plans are similar to those for other allergies, so one medication can effectively help those who suffer from both conditions. Taking pills that contain antihistamines, blocking leukotrienes with montelukast, using decongestants and using nasal sprays that contain corticosteroids are the four main types of over-the-counter and prescription treatments available. Your doctor can help you figure out if you are sensitive to mold and to what degree, and help you decide which treatments are best suited to your needs.
Although it is not possible to remove all mold from your home, WebMD suggests that the best way to control it is to remove moisture, which is crucial for its growth. Using dehumidifiers in basements, sleeping areas and in damp places like garages is one of the best ways to do this. Also, make sure to run an outside-vented bathroom fan while showering to prevent moisture buildup in the walls and ceilings, and make sure clothes dryers are vented to the outside of your house. Using an air conditioner in the summer can also help prevent mold growth when the weather turns humid.
If you take these precautions to prevent mold growth in your home and to limit your exposure to mold from the outdoors, you can hopefully find yourself feeling better in no time. Talking to your doctor can get you started on a treatment plan that will help any remaining symptoms and clear up any further questions you have about mold and your health.