Mold Allergies- Whats a sufferer to do?
Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Categories: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Indoor Air Quality, Sick Building | No Comments
What to know and do about – MOLD ALLERGIES
Do you have an allergy type reaction that never ends? If your allergy illness docent end as the seasons do, you may be allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi.
Many of my clients report such concerns after months and sometimes years of treating symptoms with medications and breathing treatments. Often times they report relief from their symptoms only when they travel or are otherwise out of their home or offices for a few days.
What Is Mold Allergy?
Mold and mildew are fungi. They differ from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. Their spores, are spread by the wind outdoors and by air indoors. Some spores are released in dry, windy weather while others are when humidity is high.
Inhalation of spores causes allergic reactions in many people. For many of us the reaction may be seasonal most commonly in spring and fall seasons.
Headaches, coughs, sneezing and eye irritation are typical reactions to mold exposure indoors. We have many clients with more severe and pronounced reactions. Shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, eye and ear problems among them.
Although there are hundreds of thousands of molds types, only a few dozen cause moderate allergic reactions. Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Mucor, Rhizopus and Aureobasidium (Pullularia) are the major culprits.
Still fewer molds can cause severe symptoms including shortness of breath, infections and hospitalization. Stachybotrys and other molds in high counts has been known to cause disease and phenomena in some people.
While molds often grow outdoors on leaves and fallen logs they can also grow indoors on surfaces that are frequently wet due to use and or water leaks.
Molds do not die with the first killing frost. Most outdoor molds become dormant during the winter. In the spring they grow on plants killed by the cold.
Indoors, molds or fungi grow year round in damp areas, particularly in the bathroom, kitchen or basement.
Who Gets the Allergy?
It is common for people to get mold allergy if they or other family members are allergic to substances such as pollen or animal dander. People may become allergic to only mold or fungi, or they may also have problems with dust mites, pollens and other spores. If you are allergic to only fungi, it is unlikely that you would be bothered by all fungi. The different types of fungi spores have only limited similarities.
What you do for a living can increase your mold exposure levels. Farmers, gardeners, mill workers, carpenters, greenhouse employees, wine makers and furniture repairers are at increased risk.
There is only weak evidence that allergic symptoms are caused by food fungi (e.g., mushrooms, dried fruit, foods containing yeast, vinegar or soy sauce). It is more likely that reactions to food fungi are caused by the food’s direct effect on blood vessels. For example, histamine may be present because of the fermentation of red wines.
Fungi on house plants can cause an allergic reaction, but this is only likely to happen if the soil is disturbed.
Fungi can even grow in the human body. If not properly treated, intense inflammation can recur often. It can permanently damage airway walls. We have seen this condition in several of our clients.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies, such as sneezing, itching, nasal discharge, congestion and dry, scaling skin.
Some people with mold allergies may have allergy symptoms the entire summer because of outdoor molds or year-round if symptoms are due to indoor molds.
Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, to cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
Sometimes the reaction is immediate, and sometimes the reaction is delayed.
Symptoms often worsen in a damp or moldy room such as a basement; this may suggest mold allergy.
How Is Mold Allergy Diagnosed?
Talk with your doctor. To diagnose an allergy to mold or fungi, the doctor will take a complete medical history. If mold allergy is suspected, the doctor often will do skin tests. Extracts of different types of fungi will be used to scratch or prick the skin. If there is no reaction, allergy is not suggested. In some people with allergy, irritation alone can cause a reaction. The doctor uses the patient’s medical history, the skin testing results, and the physical examination combined to diagnose mold allergy.
How Is Mold Allergy Treated?
At risk individuals should use common sense. Avoid / Medicate / Test
• Avoid contact with the spores. Wear a dust mask when cutting grass, digging around plants, picking up leaves and disturbing other plant materials. Reduce the humidity indoors to prevent fungi from growing. These measures will reduce symptoms.
• Take medications for short term allergic symptoms. Antihistamines and decongestants are available over the counter—without a prescription. Because these antihistamines can cause drowsiness, they are best taken at bedtime. If drowsiness continues to be a problem, talk to your doctor about taking non-sedating antihistamines, which require a prescription. For moderate and severe allergy symptoms, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays.
• If the meds don’t work: Consider getting and Indoor Air Quality Test in the areas you typically live or work in. If your only sick at home or work…. that’s a RED Flag.
How Can I Prevent a Reaction to Mold?
Allergies cannot be cured. But the symptoms of the allergy can be reduced by avoiding contact with the spores. Several measures will help:
• Stay indoors during periods when the published mold count is high, Unless your only reaction is indoors!
The amount of airborne spores are likely to change quickly, depending on the relative humidity. The counts reported are always for a past time period and may not reflect what is currently in the air.
• Use central air conditioning with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter attachment. It will help trap spores before they reach you. Air conditioning with a HEPA filter attached works better than electrostatic air-cleaning devices and much better than freestanding air cleaners. Devices that treat air with heat, ions or ozone are not recommended.
Air cleaners will NOT help if excess moisture remains. If indoor humidity is above 50 percent, risks of fungus growth rise steeply. Hygrometers can be used to measure humidity accurately. The goal is to keep humidity below 45 percent, and preferably about 35 percent.
If humidifiers are necessary, scrub the fluid reservoirs at least twice a week to prevent mold growth. Unmaintained air conditioners and dehumidifiers can also be a source of mold and must be cleaned.
Indoors Mold Fighting Strategy
• To prevent mold and mildew build up inside the home, especially in bathrooms, basements and laundry areas, be aggressive about reducing dampness:
◦ Put an exhaust fan in the bathroom. Run the fan before during and for at least thirty minutes after bathing.
◦ Quickly repair any plumbing leaks.
◦ Remove bathroom carpeting where moisture is a concern.
◦ Scour sinks and tubs at least monthly. Fungi thrive on soap and other films that coat tiles and grout. For problem areas, use ordinary laundry bleach (1 ounce diluted in a quart of water). Fungicides (chemicals that kill fungus) are less important than a good scrubbing. Fungicides may be added to paint, primer or wallpaper paste to slow fungus growth on treated areas. But this will have little effect if excess moisture remains.
◦ Clean garbage pails frequently.
◦ Clean refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans.
◦ Repair basement plumbing leaks, blocked drains, poorly vented clothes dryers and water seepage through walls.
◦ Use an electric dehumidifier to remove moisture from the basement. Be sure to drain the dehumidifier regularly and clean the condensation coils and collection bucket.
◦ Raise the temperature in the basement to help lower humidity levels. Small space heaters or a low-wattage light bulb may be useful in damp closets. Be careful where they are placed, though, to avoid creating a fire hazard.
◦ Polyurethane and rubber foams seem especially prone to fungus invasion. If bedding is made with these foams, it should be covered in plastic.
◦ Throw away or recycle old books, newspapers, clothing or bedding.
◦ Promote ground water drainage away from a house. Remove leaves and dead vegetation near the foundation and in the rain gutters. Completely shaded homes dry out slowly, and dense bushes and other plants around the foundation often promote dampness. In the winter, condensation on cold walls encourages mold growth, but even thick insulation can be invaded if vapor barriers in exterior walls are not effective.
Call or write Volunteer Mold and Indoor Air Quality for more information. www.volunteermold.com or 865 385-0170