Mold and Allergies: 10 Ways to Reduce Symptoms
Black Mold: Toxic or Not? continued...
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."
In some cases, mold exposure can cause serious respiratory problems, with
symptoms like chest tightness and difficulty breathing. "Some people who
are exposed to high levels of any mold for a long time develop lung
hypersensitivity -- which leads to scar tissue in the lungs," Martyny
explains. "Some people recover when the mold source is removed. But if
they've been exposed for a long time, they may never recover."
Coughing, wheezing, runny nose, irritated eyes or throat -- these are all
signs of mold allergy. Mold allergies can also trigger an asthma attack, with
symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. If you have these
symptoms, see an allergist for skin testing or a blood test to diagnose mold
Do You Have Mold?
Older homes are prime habitats for mold, which thrives in a dark, damp, warm
environment. If you have water damage, water leaks, a leaky roof, a washing
machine that overflows frequently, that moisture can give mold a toehold.
In winter months, indoor heat inside the house will pull air from the crawl
space into the living space, says Martyny. That’s one reason a mold allergy may
get worse in winter.
"In some instances, it can be hard to see the water damage," he
adds. "You may have to have a professional with a moisture meter and
infrared cameras see if anything is leaking."
So what can you do to reduce your exposure to mold? Attack mold on two
fronts -- removal and prevention:
- 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.
- Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. If you have mold in your
crawl space or basement, locate the source and stop the water from coming
- If your crawl space has mold, call an environmental service to get rid of
it. If a small area is moldy, you can try cleaning it yourself.
- 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.
- Wash mold off hard surfaces. You don’t have to use chlorine bleach; soap
and water, combined with scrubbing from a stiff brush, works to remove mold.
Some people also recommend vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Non-toxic cleaners are
also available. Allow areas to dry completely.
- Dry water-damaged areas and items (like carpeting) within 24 to 48 hours of
flooding. Don't install carpeting in areas where there is a moisture
- If ceiling tiles or carpet have become moldy, they must be replaced. Throw
out all wet, moldy tiles and carpeting.
- Reduce indoor humidity by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other
moisture-generating sources. Exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens can help.
If you don’t have exhaust fans, crack a window in the kitchen when you're
cooking or in the bathroom when you're bathing.
- Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers inside your home. Change filters
regularly. Use a dehumidifier to get rid of dampness in basements.
- Add insulation to windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors where
there is potential for condensation on cold surfaces.
If you're working in a moldy area, always wear a filtered face mask so you
won't inhale mold spores.