The stuff is everywhere -- outdoors on leaves and rotting wood, and indoors in damp basements and bathrooms. So mold allergies can cause trouble year-round.
Want to keep a lid on this type of allergy? The key is to avoid mold whenever you can. That isn't always easy outdoors. But you can take steps to limit your contact with it inside your home. First, find out how it forms, and then learn how to clean it up and keep it from coming back.
How Mold Causes Allergies
It's a type of fungus that has an important job in the natural world: It breaks down dead plants. Molds don't have seeds. Instead, they grow and spread through tiny things called spores, which cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Keep Moisture Down
Mold likes humidity, so it's important to lower moisture levels in your home, especially in areas that tend to get damp, such as bathroom tiles, near sinks, in basements and crawl spaces, and around windows.
There are simple ways to keep the moisture down.
In your bathroom, open the window or door, or use an exhaust fan when you shower. Also clean the room often, and pay special attention to tile and shower curtains, where soap scum can harbor mold. Clean sinks and tubs at least once a month.
Make sure your clothes dryers and stoves vent to the outside. This helps cut moisture and humidity levels in your home.
Fix all plumbing problems and leaks right away, and wipe up any extra moisture. You can help keep mold from growing if you dry wet or damp areas within 48 hours.
In the kitchen, open a window or use exhaust fans when you cook or run the dishwasher to reduce humidity.
Throughout your house, clean up condensation on windows, walls, or pipes right away. You can also try a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity levels between 30% and 60%. Make sure you empty and clean the machine's drain pan regularly.
Another strategy: Think about removing carpets. Mold can easily grow on them, and it's hard to get rid of it.
If your basement is damp, one way to cut humidity is to raise the temperature.
Another way to prevent moisture from getting into your home: Check that water on the ground outside drains away from your home. And 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 area is larger than 10 square feet, you might want to hire a contractor to do the job. Check that he's got experience in removing mold.
If your allergies are severe, ask someone else to clean it up. If you have to do it yourself, wear a face mask while you clean.
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.
Once the area is dry, 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 they're still moldy, you may need to replace them.
Never paint or caulk over an area with mold. Remove the fungus first.
Keep Outdoor Molds Out of Your Home
Most of the time, your contact with mold happens outdoors. But spores can sneak into your home through windows and doors and on your shoes and clothing. To stop this from happening:
- 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.
You may need to get treatment for your allergy if you get rid of mold but still have symptoms. Over-the-counter medicine includes steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants. See your doctor if these don't give you relief.