If you find yourself developing a killer headache when riding an elevator with someone who was a bit generous dabbing on the perfume, you have company. More than 2 million Americans have fragrance allergies or sensitivities -- and the number is on the rise.
Although that person's perfume may have been all too obvious a culprit, there are many hidden sources of fragrances, says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. Bassett helped WebMD sniff out the truth...
The symptoms are similar to those of other nasal allergies -- sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and itchy, watery eyes. An untreated mold allergy can also lead to more significant health problems.
The key to controlling this type of allergy? Avoid mold whenever possible.
That isn’t always easy outdoors. But you can take steps to limit your exposure to it inside your home: Prevent household mold from forming, clean up any that's already there, and keep outdoor mold from getting tracked inside. Here’s how.
How Mold Causes Allergies
It's a type of fungus that serves an important function in the natural world: It breaks down dead plant matter. Unlike plants, molds don’t have seeds. Instead, they grow and spread through spores. The tiny mold spores are what cause an allergic reaction in some people. But only a few types of mold actually cause allergies.
Household Mold: Control Moisture to Control Allergies
Mold likes humidity. So the key to preventing this fungus in your home is to control moisture levels, especially in areas that are moist or damp, such as on bathroom tiles, near sinks, in damp basements or crawl spaces, and areas around windows.
Do this to stop mold from growing in your home:
Open the window or use an exhaust fan in the bathroom when showering.
Make sure clothes dryers and stoves are properly vented to the outside. This will help reduce moisture and humidity levels in your home.
Clean your bathroom frequently. Pay special attention to tiles and shower curtains, where soap scum can harbor mold.
Fix all plumbing problems and leaks right away and wipe up any excess moisture. In most cases, drying wet or damp areas within 48 hours can keep mold from growing.
Open a window or use exhaust fans when cooking or running the dishwasher to reduce humidity.
Clean sinks and tubs often -- at least once a month.
Clean up condensation on windows, walls, or pipes immediately.
If necessary, use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in your home. Aim for an indoor humidity level between 30% to 60%. Be sure to empty and clean the dehumidifier’s drain pan regularly.
Consider removing carpeting if humidity is a problem in your home. Mold can easily grow on carpet and it’s hard to remove.
If your basement is damp, try increasing the temperature to reduce humidity. Be sure that ground water drainage is going away from your home to prevent a leaky basement.
Keep your rain gutters clean so they don’t get clogged.