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 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.
How to Clean Indoor Mold
Get rid of it quickly if you see it in your home. Not only can it irritate your allergies, but it can also damage whatever surface it's growing on.
If the moldy surface is larger than 10 square feet, consider hiring a contractor to do the job. Be sure the person has experience removing mold.
If your allergies are severe, ask someone else to clean it up. If this isn’t possible, wear a facemask while you clean.
If you have milder allergies and the area is not too big, you should still wear gloves and goggles while cleaning. These items will protect your skin and eyes. Don’t touch mold with your bare skin.
Use soap and warm water to scrub it from hard surfaces (such as tile), and then make sure the area is completely dry. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology also recommends that you use a bleach solution to clean washable surfaces.
Once the area is dry, check to make sure that all of the mold is gone. It may be impossible to remove it from some things, such as ceiling tiles or carpeting. If these items are moldy, you may need to get them replaced.
Never paint or caulk over an area with mold. Remove the fungus first.
Keep Outdoor Mold Out of Your Home
Most exposure to molds happens outside. But spores from the outdoors can get into your home through windows and doors and on your shoes and clothing.
- Keep your doors and windows closed when outdoor mold spore counts are high. Use an air conditioner with a HEPA filter instead.
- Leave your shoes at the door so you don’t track it through your home.
- Take a shower and change your clothes after spending time outside.
- Clean and vacuum regularly. Use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter to catch small particles and dust.
Treat Your Allergies
You may need other treatment if you get rid of mold as much as possible but still have symptoms. Over-the-counter treatments for allergies include antihistamines and decongestants. Your doctor may prescribe other medications if these don’t give you relief.