5 Symptoms of Mold

Mold allergies are easily treatable when properly diagnosed, so it is important for individuals who suspect their symptoms may be related to mold to consult with an allergy specialist or a physician to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Taking steps such as repairing water leaks and installing dehumidifiers in the home can also help to hinder mold growth and relieve mold allergy symptoms. Understanding what causes mold allergies and taking preventative measures to avoid exposure are essential in managing symptoms.

Itching Eyes

Itching eyes are a common allergic symptom that can develop following exposure to mold spores, pet dander and seasonal pollens. Individuals who experience itching eyes during wet or humid weather or when moisture levels are high inside the home may be suffering from mold allergy symptoms.

Stuffy Nose & Post Nasal Drip

Nasal congestion is a common mold allergy symptom that is often triggered after periods of wet weather or when an individual is exposed to mold spores in the home. When nasal stuffiness occurs, it is often accompanied by postnasal drip, a condition in which nasal secretions run down the back of the throat. Additional symptoms of postnasal drip include bad breath and coughing.

Itching Throat

Individuals with mold allergies may also experience an itching sensation in the throat. Itching throat symptoms are typically caused by postnasal drip, but can also be a symptom of a serious allergic reaction that can lead to throat swelling if left untreated. It is important for sufferers to seek medical attention if itching throat symptoms are present to ensure prompt treatment.

Sinus Headaches

Mold spores can cause the sinuses to become congested, which in turn can trigger sinus headaches in individuals with mold allergies. Sinus headaches cause pain and pressure in the forehead and sinus cavities. In certain cases, sinus pressure can also cause tooth and ear pain. Sinus headaches tend to worsen when lying down.

Exacerbated Asthma Symptoms

Individuals with mold allergies who also suffer from asthma may experience exacerbated asthma symptoms when exposed to mold. Asthma symptoms include chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. Anyone experiencing a severe asthma attack following possible mold exposure should seek immediate medical attention.

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Allergen Glossary

Allergen – A substance that induces a specific immunological response that may lead to allergic disease.

Allergist – A physician specializing in treating allergies.

Allergy – Symptoms induced by exposure to an allergen to which previous sensitization has occurred.

Antibody – An antibody is a protein (also called an immunoglobulin) that is manufactured by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to neutralize an antigen or foreign protein. Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms commonly contain many antigens, as do pollens, dust mites, molds, foods, and other substances.

Asthma – A respiratory disease, often caused by exposure to allergens, marked by wheezing, chest tightness, and sometimes coughing.

Cockroach – Any of various oval, flat-bodied insects common as household pests. The two most common indoor species of cockroach in North America are the German cockroach (Blatella germanica) and the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana).

Dander – The tiny particles of skin and dried sweat and saliva that are shed by animals such as cats and dogs. These are a major cause of allergies.

Dust mites – Tiny creatures related to spiders and ticks. They are found in house dust. House dust mites, due to their very small size, are not visible to the eye, and live for approximately 3 to 4 months. The two most commonly occurring dust mites are the American house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).

ELISA – ELISA is the abbreviation for “Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” which is a highly sensitive technique for detecting and measuring antigens (allergens) in a solution. The solution is run over a surface to which immobilized antibodies specific to the antigen being measured have been attached. If the antigen is present, it will bind to the antibody layer, and then its presence is verified and visualized with an application of antibodies that have been tagged in some way.

Mold – Any of various fungi that produce visible growth on organic material.

Moldy – Covered with or containing mold.

Protein – Any of a group of complex organic compounds that are composed of amino acids.

Rhinitis – Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the nose, often due to an allergy to pollen, dust or other airborne substances. Seasonal allergic rhinitis also is known as “hay fever,” a disorder that causes sneezing, itching, a runny nose and nasal congestion.

Sensitization – Become responsive to external conditions or stimulation. In the case of allergens, sensitization involves the production of specific antibodies.

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The 3rd Year of the Teal Project

Every child should be able to experience the joy and tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween. But kids with food allergies are often left out of the fun, since most candy is off limits. FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project helps make sure all children will come home on Halloween night with something they can enjoy. It just takes one simple act: offering non-food treats, such as glow sticks or small toys, as an alternative to candy.

Last year, households from all 50 states and 14 countries participated. This is a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all trick-or-treaters.

How To Take Part

  1. Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
  2. Place a teal pumpkin in front of your home to indicate to passersby that you have non-food treats available.
  3. Display a free printable sign or premium poster from FARE to explain the meaning of your teal pumpkin.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 2

Bathroom

  • Ventilation. Install and use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while taking baths or showers.
  • Floors. Remove carpeting and use tile, vinyl, wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs.
  • Walls. Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.
  • Shower and tub. Towel-dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub, shower and faucets with bleach. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.
  • Toilet and sink. Scrub mold from plumbing fixtures. Repair leaks.

Basement

  • Flooring. Remove moldy or water-damaged carpeting. If possible, use concrete, vinyl or linoleum flooring.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Foundation, windows and stairwells. Check for and repair any sources of leaks or water damage.
  • Air quality. Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness, and clean it once a week.
  • Storage. Store collectibles and clothes in plastic storage bins.
  • Clothes dryer. Vent moisture outside.

Entire House

  • Temperature and humidity. Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperature between 68 F (20 C) and 72 F (22 C) and keep relative humidity no higher than 50 percent. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.
  • Pests. Control cockroaches and mice with inexpensive traps from the hardware store. If that’s not effective, hire a professional exterminator. To remove allergy-triggering insect and mouse residue, thoroughly vacuum carpeting and wash hard surfaces. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other possible entryways.
  • Mold. Close doors and windows during warm weather and use air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Remove nonwashable contaminated materials such as carpeting.
  • Clean washable material with a solution of 5 percent chlorine bleach and wear a protective mask when cleaning away mold. Check the roof and ceilings for water leaks.
  • Weekly cleaning routine. Damp-mop wood or linoleum flooring and vacuum carpeting. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Use a damp cloth to clean other surfaces, including the tops of doors, windowsills and window frames. If you have allergies, either wear a dust mask or get someone who doesn’t have allergies to do this job. Change or clean heating and cooling system filters once a month.
  • Smoking. Don’t allow smoking anywhere inside your house.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 1

If you have hay fever or allergic asthma, take a few steps to reduce allergens in your home. Some steps to reduce indoor allergens are complicated and time-consuming — but there are some easy things you can do that may help. Some steps may be more effective than others, depending on what particular allergy or allergies you have.

Bedroom

  • Bed and bedding. Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in water heated to at least 130 F (54 C). Remove, wash or cover comforters. Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials.
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Shampoo the carpet frequently.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Furnishings. Choose easy-to-clean chairs, dressers and nightstands made of leather, wood, metal or plastic. Avoid upholstered furniture.
  • Clutter. Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines. Store children’s toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, at least keep animals out of the bedroom. Bathing pets at least once a week may reduce the amount of allergen in the dander they shed.
  • Air filtration. Choose an air filter that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. Try adjusting your air filter so that it directs clean air toward your head when you sleep.
 Living room
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats weekly, and shampoo wall-to-wall carpets periodically.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Plants. Find a new home for potted plants or spread aquarium gravel over the dirt to help contain mold.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, consider keeping it outside if weather permits.
  • Fireplaces. Avoid use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves because smoke and gases can worsen respiratory allergies. Most natural gas fireplaces won’t cause this problem.
 Kitchen
  • Stove. Install and use a vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Most stove-top hoods simply filter cooking particulates without venting outside.
  • Sink. Wash dishes daily. Scrub the sink and faucets to remove mold and food debris.
  • Refrigerator. Wipe up excessive moisture to avoid mold growth. Discard moldy or out-of-date food. Regularly empty and clean dripping pan and clean or replace moldy rubber seals around doors.
  • Cabinets and counters. Clean cabinets and countertops with detergent and water. Check under-sink cabinets for plumbing leaks. Store food — including pet food — in sealed containers.
  • Food waste. Place garbage in a can with an insect-proof lid and empty trash daily. Keeping the kitchen free of food crumbs will help reduce the chance you will have rodents or cockroaches.

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Mold Allergy Checklist

If you’ve got an allergy to mold, take action to keep it from growing out of control in your home. The key to success is keeping things clean and dry. Put this checklist on your fridge to remind yourself of the steps you should take.  Here are some suggestions that can help you to prevent allergies from flaring up:

  1. Clean weekly. Disinfect where mold grows — in trash cans, sinks, and bathrooms.
  2. Look for leaks. Check your roof and pipes beneath sinks and in the basement.
  3. Dry damp areas quickly. Mold can start to grow in 24 to 48 hours.
  4. Keep indoor humidity 50% or lower. Use a dehumidifier if you need it.
  5. Don’t overwater indoor plants. Damp soil grows mold.
  6. Keep your fridge clean. Watch for signs of trouble in drip trays and on door seals.
  7. Clean mold from your heating or AC ductwork. Hire a professional to do it.
  8. Limit storage in damp basements or garages. Don’t give the fungus a chance to grow.
  9. Remove carpets in damp areas. It can breed mold if you have them in your bathrooms or the basement.
  10. Air out kitchens and bathrooms. Put in exhaust fans to vent moisture.
  11. Move mold away. Keep compost piles, yard clippings, and firewood far from the home.
  12. Make sure gutters are clean. If they’re blocked, this type of fungus can grow.
  13. Check your foundation. The ground should slope away from it. If it doesn’t, water may drain into your basement.
  14. Stock up on allergy medication , if needed. Be ready before symptoms strike.

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Plants That Cause Allergies

Hundreds of species of plants release their pollen into the air every year, causing allergic reactions in many people. But only a relatively small number of plants are responsible for most of the itching, sneezing, and watery eyes associated with hay fever. Certain pollens — such as ragweed — can even survive through the winter and play havoc with immune systems year-round. All of that pollen has created a booming market for antihistamine and decongestant makers, but has left millions of people with allergies begging for relief.

Certain plants are worse than others. Here are the top allergens found in North America:

  • Ragweed: throughout North America
  • Mountain Cedar: Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas
  • Ryegrass: throughout North America
  • Maple: throughout North America
  • Elm: throughout most of North America
  • Mulberry: throughout the United States (but rare in Florida and desert regions of the country)
  • Pecan: Southeastern United States
  • Oak: throughout North America
  • Pigweed/tumbleweed: throughout North America
  • Arizona Cypress: Southwestern United States

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