The term hay fever brings to mind pollen and ragweed allergies, but mould can be the sneaky culprit behind summer sneezing, sniffling and itchy eyes.
“Many allergy sufferers assume their symptoms are caused by pollen, when they’re actually allergic to mould,” says Dr James L. Sublett, section chief of the pediatric allergy department at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Louisville, Kentucky in the USA
The mould truth:
Millions of people suffer from allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and mould is one of several triggers especially in summertime.
Mould allergy symptoms peak in summer; as humidity rises, the fungi, which flourish in damp, warm conditions, grow on dead grass and leaves, straw and other plants.
Once they’ve set up camp in an adequately damp spot, they reproduce by sending spores (or tiny seeds) into the air.
Inhaling these particles triggers a reaction in those who are allergic to mould.
“Mould spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms.
They also can reach the lungs, which can cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis,” says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
So how do you know if you suffer from a mould allergy?
Pesky allergy symptoms are a good indicator, but an allergist can confirm the source with a skin test, pricking the skin with extracts of different types of fungi to identify an allergic reaction.
Such medications as antihistamines and decongestants can help ease symptoms from mold. But the only surefire route to relief is avoiding mold both inside and outside your home.
Follow these strategies to allergy-proof your surroundings.
Inside your home
Mould is an unwelcome houseguest, and it’s hard to send the fungi packing. It lurks in rooms where humidity levels are high (the basement, kitchen and bathrooms), and it can grow on anything from houseplants to old newspapers.
Luckily, our targeted plan of attack will help you get rid of the fungi for good.
Keep it clean
- Zap kitchen hot spots. Mold loves to hang out in trash cans, refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans. Use a cleaning product formulated to kill the fungi.
- Don’t let laundry pile up. Damp laundry (in the machine or out) is the perfect spot for mold to grow.
- Scrub your shower. Clean your shower with a solution of diluted beach at least once a month.
- Tidy up the fridge. It may seem obvious, but make sure to throw out old food from your pantry and fridge as soon as it expires.
Clear the air
- Get hip to HEPA. Be sure your central heating and air-conditioning is fitted with a high-efficiency particulate accumulator (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters can trap very small particles, including pollen and mold spores, and are sold online and at numerous home improvement stores.
- Minimize moisture. Use a dehumidifier, especially in damp areas like the basement and the bathroom, suggests Sublett. Don’t forget to empty the water and clean the appliance regularly to prevent creating a breeding ground for mold.
- Air out the shower. After hot showers and baths, run a fan or open a window. In bathrooms without windows, keep the door open when the room isn’t in use.
Target mould zones
- Bag the shag. Remove carpeting in the basement, laundry room and bathrooms.
- Clear the walls. Wallpaper can trap mildew in the bathroom; a cheery shade of paint is a better bet. Look for mold- and mildew-resistant paint at the hardware store.
- Let there be light. Since most mold grows in the dark, install a light on a timer in dark rooms like the basement or closets.
- Store carefully. Don’t put newspaper, old books, clothes, bedding or other items in damp areas where mold will latch on.
- Water with care. Mold loves potted soil, so don’t overwater household plants.
Outside your home
It’s more of a challenge to eradicate mould outside your home, where it thrives on dead grass, dead leaves, straw and other plants. These five strategies will keep the fungi under control in your great outdoors.
- Rake and mow. The lawn should be regularly mowed and raked. It’s best to have someone else do the dirty work if you’re allergic; otherwise, wear a face mask when you’re cutting the grass, digging, weeding or raking.
- Chop and remove. Store firewood away from your home.
- Patch the roof. Be proactive: Repair any leaks in your roof immediately.
- De-clutter the gutters. Always keep rain gutters clear of leaves and debris.
- Relocate compost. A compost pile is good and green -but it’s also a major mould breeding ground. Keep it as far away from your house as possible.
Have a look at the allergy hotspots around the house (graphic)
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