GOOD Home: Allergies or Mold? How to Tell What’s Causing Your Springtime Discomfort
Today marks the return of “GOOD Home,” a biweekly sponsored column published in partnership with PuroClean of Wilton | Ridgefield about home safety, maintenance, weather preparedness, and damage prevention, with the goal to save homeowners from the hassle and headaches of severe property damage. Located in south Wilton (24 Danbury Rd., Suite 204), PuroClean provides 24/7 water damage remediation, fire and smoke restoration, and mold and biohazard removal services to the Fairfield County community and across southwest CT and Northeastern Westchester County.
Spring is a joyous time when nature comes alive after a long, cold, damp, harsh winter. For us it could not have arrived sooner. This winter brought with it a good amount of property damage from pipe bursts. However, spring time in Fairfield and Westchester Counties is just special. The blooming of flowers and trees adds beauty to the landscapes and fills the warm air with delightful fragrances. Nevertheless, natural occurrences are not always desirable when seasonal allergies rear their ugly head. When flowers, trees, and grasses release pollen, many cope with dreadful sneezing fits, watery eyes, and itchy noses.
Suffering from such symptoms is frustrating, but many people don’t realize that mold can contribute to spring allergies, too. Allergens from mold can linger in the air for months due to increased humidity. We should be aware of our surroundings and enact the necessary preventative measures if we are among the unfortunate who endure seasonal allergies.
Where Is Mold Found?
Mold is a type of fungus that is part of the ecological system that mother nature uses to break down organic materials and turn them back into soil and fertilizer for plants. It grows in environments where there are cellulosic organic materials and excess moisture. It can be found indoors and outdoors and thrives in warm, moist conditions. When mold spores are released into the air, they can cause allergic reactions in some people. The symptoms of mold allergies are similar to those of other allergies, such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes, and coughing.
Mold allergies can be especially problematic during spring when the weather is warm and humid. In fact, the warmer temperatures and increased moisture in the air can cause mold to grow and spread rapidly. This means that people allergic to mold may experience more severe symptoms during the spring months.
One of the most common sources of mold during spring is outdoor mold. It’s often found in damp soil, fallen leaves, and other organic matter. When these materials decompose, they create the perfect environment for mold to grow. When the wind blows, it can carry mold spores into the air, where they can be inhaled by people who are allergic to mold.
Indoor mold is also a common source of spring allergies. It can seriously threaten your health, especially if left untreated. You may not even realize mold is present in your home, as it can hide behind walls and carpets. The presence of mold inside your home can cause allergy symptoms and damage your home’s structure and furnishings. Mold can grow on any organic material, including paper, fabrics, and wood. Over time, this can lead to the deterioration of these materials and can cause permanent damage to your home.
In addition, indoor mold can create an unpleasant and musty odor that can be difficult to remove. If you suspect mold in your home, it is important to take action quickly to prevent further growth and potential health hazards.
What Are the Symptoms of Mold Exposure?
One of the challenges of mold allergies is that they can be difficult to diagnose. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, many mold allergy symptoms are similar to those of other allergic reactions, such as hay fever or asthma symptoms.
If you suspect that the cause of your allergy woes is mold, speak with your primary care physician. They can refer you to an allergy specialist, who performs tests to determine whether or not you have a mold allergy. They’ll also recommend the best course of treatment for your symptoms.
While mold may be a nuisance for some people, it can pose serious health risks for sensitized individuals with weakened immune systems or pre-existing health conditions. Mold exposure can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks, especially in people prone to these conditions. Additionally, prolonged mold exposure may lead to more severe health effects, such as respiratory problems, skin irritation, and even neurological symptoms in some cases.
For example, individuals with chronic lung conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), may experience worsening symptoms when exposed to mold. Mold exposure can also lead to fungal infections in individuals with a vulnerable immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or people who have had organ transplants.
Additionally, exposure to certain types of mold, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus, and Cladospurium, commonly known as black molds, have been linked to various health effects, including headaches, fatigue, and even memory loss.
In some cases, exposure can also cause skin irritation, such as rashes or hives. People susceptible to mold may also experience neurological symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or difficulty concentrating. These symptoms may be more common in people exposed to high mold levels for prolonged periods.
It’s important to note that not all molds are toxic, and not all people will experience health effects from mold. However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and take steps to reduce your mold exposure, especially if you are at higher risk for health complications.
What to Do About Springtime Mold Allergies
If you believe that mold is the culprit of your spring allergies, there are several steps you can take to reduce and eliminate your exposure. The following tips will ensure your home remains mold-free during the placid spring season.
- Clean regularly. Regular cleaning of your home can help prevent the growth of mold. Use disinfectant to clean surfaces in damp areas like the bathroom and kitchen, and vacuum carpets and upholstery frequently to remove mold spores.
- Control indoor humidity. Mold loves damp environments, so controlling the moisture in your home is crucial in preventing mold growth. Keep your home’s humidity levels below 50 percent using a dehumidifier or air conditioner.
- Use an air purifier/filtration system. Air purifiers are an excellent way to help reduce mold spores in your home. Not only do they remove polluted air, but they also help to filter out small particles of mold-causing substances like dust and pollen. Regular use of an air purifier will even help prevent mold spores’ future growth, allowing you and your family to avoid breathing in harmful mold particles that could make you sick over time.
- Address leaks promptly. Leaky pipes and other appliances can quickly lead to mold growth if left unaddressed. If you notice any leaks, fix them as soon as possible to prevent mold from growing.
- Remove mold immediately. If you spot mold in your home, removing it as soon as possible is essential. Wear gloves and an N95 or P100 mask/respirator to protect yourself, and clean the moldy area to the best of your abilities using an EPA-approved fungicide/disinfectant.
- Consider professional help. Hiring a certified mold remediation professional to remediate any mold issues in your home may be necessary in many cases. This is especially true if you have a large mold infestation or if the mold is hidden behind walls or in other hard-to-reach areas. A professional mold remediation company can assess the extent of the problem, remove the mold safely and effectively, and take steps to prevent it from returning.
How can you avoid outdoor mold growth? It’s simple: maintain your yard. Remove any fallen leaves and debris from your yard, and keep your gutters clean to prevent water from pooling around your home’s foundation. Your lawn’s important, too, so mow it regularly and avoid overwatering plants or allowing standing water to accumulate.
When doing yard work, wear a mask to avoid inhaling mold spores. It should fit securely over your nose and mouth and have a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to capture even the tiniest mold spores. Be extremely careful around damp soil and piles of leaves, as they are most likely to have mold. Stay in open and well-ventilated spaces.
If you live in an area with high humidity, consider using a fungicide to help prevent mold growth. It’s also a good idea to keep your windows and doors closed during high pollen and mold count days, so monitor your daily weather report. Additionally, if you enjoy outdoor activities like camping or hiking, check the weather before heading outside and avoid areas with high mold counts.
To further help combat the effects of springtime molds, you may also consider taking over-the-counter allergy medication to relieve bothersome symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. As always, please consult with a medical professional prior.
While pollen may be the most well-known allergen during spring, mold can also cause seasonal allergies. However, with the proper precautions, you can reduce mold exposure and alleviate your symptoms. If you suspect your spring allergies are mold-related, speak with your doctor about allergy testing and treatment options. Remember that prevention is key when it comes to mold allergies, so take steps to keep your home a healthy and safe place.