|Mold - A Brief Introduction
Mold is part of nature's clean-up system by helping in the decomposition of dead trees, leaves and other plant matter. To reproduce, mold releases spores (or seeds) into the air. Invisible to the naked eye, mold spores float through the air and will settle and grow on moist surfaces outdoors or indoors, especially in dark areas. Indoor mold grows well year round in basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and attics. Outdoor mold can most often be found in shady areas with moisture.
About Allergic Reactions To Mold
Although there are about 10,000 kinds of mold, there are only a dozen or so that cause problems for people. About 15 million Americans have mold allergies, which is significant, especially if you are one of them. Even if you don't have a specific mold allergy, it can still sometimes cause irritation and symptoms. The National Institute of Health (NIH) gives these as symptoms of mold allergy or mold irritation:
- Difficulty breathing
- Itching of the nose, eyes, throat, or skin
- Redness in the eyes
- Runny nose
- Sinus pressure
- Tearing eyes
The United States Environmental Protection Agency adds these facts:
Symptoms and degree of severity of mold allergies vary from person to person. Mold Allergy symptoms can also vary in the same person depending on the type of mold, the time of year, the weather, or being in areas with high concentrations of mold.
- Allergic reactions to mold are common.
- They can be immediate or delayed.
- Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.
- Mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.
Mold Prevention & Avoidance
Although mold spores are everywhere (even in house dust), you can reduce your exposure to mold by following these steps suggested by the NIH:
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends being aggressive about reducing dampness to prevent mold and mildew build up inside the home, especially in bathrooms, basements and laundry areas. Some steps that can help include:
- Keep rooms dry, and use a dehumidifier, if necessary.
- Throw out moldy or mildewed articles (such as books, toys, and shoes).
- Disinfect bathrooms, basement walls, and furniture with diluted bleach or other disinfectant solutions.
- Clean frequently to reduce dust.
- Vacuum frequently [National Allergy Note: vacuums with HEPA filters will capture and contain dust particles that may include mold spores].
- Damp-mop and dust often [National Allergy Note: dusting aids made for the job can save time and effort].
- Eliminate as many "dust catchers" as possible, including rugs, bed ruffles or canopies, and curtains.
The Mayo Clinic suggests taking these measures to prevent allergic reaction to mold:
- Put an exhaust fan or open a window in the bathroom.
- 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). [National Allergy Note: if bleach is a problem for you, we offer mold removers that are user friendly.]
- 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 [National Allergy Note: vinyl or fabric pillow, mattress and box spring covers can help keep mold spores out of your bedding].
- 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.
Mold Cleanup Tips
- Sleep with your windows closed to keep out outdoor mold. The concentration of airborne mold spores is greatest at night, when the weather is cool and damp.
- If you must rake leaves, mow your lawn or work around compost, consider wearing a dust mask over your nose and mouth to keep mold spores out.
- Don't go outdoors immediately after a rainstorm, or in foggy or damp weather, or when the published mold count is high.
- The soil used to pot houseplants can be a reservoir for mold and moisture. If you have a mold allergy, it's possible that houseplants could trigger allergy symptoms. Houseplants have been identified as potential triggers for hay fever (allergic rhinitis) as well. [National Allergy Note: to prevent mold and mold spores on houseplant soil, No More Mildew can be sprayed directly on the dirt to produce a protective barrier.]
- Correct any water or dampness problems in your home.
- Keep the indoor humidity level below 40 percent [National Allergy Note: a humidity gauge can help you monitor humidity level].
- Remove carpets and upholstered furniture from your home.
- Use an air conditioner with an allergen filter.
- Fix the leak or source of moisture or all your cleaning will be a waste of time.
- When cleaning mold, wear protective gear: a mask, non-vented goggles, and gloves.
- If the area that is moldy is more than 10 square feet, it may be wise to consult a professional in mold remediation.
- If you choose to use outside contractors or professionals, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) makes these recommendations:
- Make sure they have experience in cleaning up mold.
- Ask for references and check them out.
- Obtain two to three bids.
- Find out how long the company has been in business.
- Contact the BBB for a reliability report on the company.
- Work with your homeowner's insurance company - an insurance agent should be able to recommend a reliable and reputable remediation company.
- Do not paint over mold without cleaning first.
- Using a paint additive can help keep mold away.
- Clean the surface completely and allow to dry thoroughly. [National Allergy Note: a mold protectant such as No More Mildew can help prevent the recurrence of mold.]
- Don't wait. If you have had a water leakage problem, scrub away mold and dry out the affected area.
- Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Porous, noncleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
The main thing to remember about mold is that it has to have moisture to live. That is why it is so important to be alert to problem areas and check for leaks in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and basements. Then the leak must be fixed and the area dried out immediately. Putting it off only gives mold a foothold, and it just gets harder to get rid of it. Also, keep an eye out for mold in places that produce moisture like refrigerators, air conditioners, windows (condensation), and steamy tubs and showers (check the wallpaper).
Unfortunately, it is an ongoing battle. There is no such thing as getting rid of mold once and for all. You must be vigilant against this tiny enemy.
For expert care and answers to specific product-related questions, call one of our experienced customer service representatives to guide you through the options for allergy, asthma and sinus relief toll-free at 1-888-498-7401 Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:30 pm Eastern Time. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To order by phone, call us at 1-800-522-1448 any time - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.