Do your nasal allergies linger well after the first frost? If so, you may have a mold allergy. Mold is found everywhere -- outdoors on leaves and rotting wood and indoors in damp basements and bathrooms. So mold allergies -- and allergy symptoms -- can happen year round.
The symptoms of a mold allergy are similar to those of other nasal allergies -- sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and itchy, watery eyes. Untreated mold allergy can also lead to more significant health problems.
Controlling a mold allergy means controlling your exposure to mold. That isn’t always easy outdoors. But you can limit exposure inside your home by preventing household mold from forming, cleaning up existing household mold, and preventing outdoor mold from getting tracked inside. Here’s how.
How Mold Causes Allergies
Mold is 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
“The key to preventing mold in your home is controlling moisture levels,” Päivi Salo, PhD, an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, says. “Molds need water to live. Indoor mold tends to grow in places that are moist or damp, such as on bathroom tiles, near sinks, in damp basements or crawl spaces, and areas around windows.”
Try these strategies to prevent molds 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 prevent 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 carpeting and it’s difficult 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.