What is Alternaria?

Alternaria is one of the most important allergenic molds found in the US. It is most common as an outdoor mold, as it thrives on various types of vegetation. Alternaria spores can be detected from Spring through late Fall in most temperate areas, and can reach levels of thousands of spores per cubic meter of air. While one usually thinks of molds as a problem in damp or even wet conditions, Alternaria spores can be at their highest concentrations during dry, windy conditions that are ideal for the spores to become airborne.

Alternaria is one of the most common outdoor molds, but also has been found in the indoor environment. The National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing conducted a study looking at house dust samples from 831 homes in 75 different locations throughout the US. Alternaria was found in over 90% of those dust samples. While much of that allergenic load was probably due to outdoor Alternaria finding its way inside, Alternaria is known to grow on moist surfaces in the home as well.

Alternaria is known to be a problem in allergic disease. In patients who show allergy to molds, up to 70% of those patients demonstrate allergy to Alternaria, and Alternaria is known to be a risk factor for asthma. Dampness and mold problems have been reported to occur in 20 – 50% of modern homes. Additionally, keep in mind that mold spores often outnumber pollen spores by 1,000 to one, and mold can produce spores for months on end, versus the weeks of pollen production by many allergenic plants.

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Mold Exposure Causing Hair Loss

People who are allergic to mold are at higher risk of suffering hair loss when exposed to this allergen. Allergic reactions, causing hair loss, can be triggered by both black “toxic” mold or other molds found in the house. Allergic reactions cause the body to produce histamine, an inflammation-causing substance that results in the disruption of blood flow to the capillaries. The capillaries in the scalp nourish the hair follicles. Hair loss may result when blood flow to these capillaries is disturbed as a result of an allergic reaction to mold. Hair loss, in this case, will be diffuse over the entire head

Hair loss can also result from fungal infections in the scalp, caused by constant exposure to mold spores in the house. In this case the mold infects the out layer of the skin, leading to rashes, scaling, small sores and other visible symptoms, which in turn can lead to patches of hair loss. To reverse the hair loss, the first step is to remove mold from the house. If the exposure to mold has been limited and has not resulted in the death of the hair follicles, the hair loss caused by allergies to mold, or by fungal infections on the scalp, can be reversed.

It’s not just mold that causes hair loss. Being around any substance that you’re allergic to for long enough can also make you lose hair. Besides mold spores, some other common indoor allergens that could be causing you hair loss are dust mite excretion, animal dander from pets, chemicals in laundry powder and also biological enzymes in laundry powder.

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Molds in Fall – Part 2

The pollen from ragweed causes allergy symptoms in many people. These symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, and itchy throat. This is often called hay fever or by its medical term, seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Reducing Ragweed Exposure

Here’s a few simple precautions can dramatically reduce your pollen exposure:

  • As much as possible, stay indoors when pollen counts are highest. Typically, that’s between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tracking the pollen count in your area can help you take special precautions on high-pollen days.
  • At home and in your car, keep the windows closed and the air conditioner on. Air conditioners filter the air as well as cool it. Just make sure to change or clean the filters every three months or so.
  • Change your clothes after spending time outdoors. Dry clothes in the dryer — not outdoors on a line, where they might get dusted with pollen.
  • Shower before bed to remove pollen, especially from your face and hair.
  • Try nasal irrigation. Rinsing out your nostrils with a salt water solution once or twice a day, using a neti pot or a bottle system, such as the one made by Neil-Med. Your doctor should be able to explain how and give you a recipe for the solution.
  • Equip your home with HEPA air filters. A filter in each room works best. At the very least, you should have a filter running continuously in your bedroom. HEPA vacuum cleaners can also help.

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15 Worst Cities For Ragweed 2015

Fall is officially here, and so are fall allergies. Ragweed usually starts releasing its pollen in late August, but that pollen can linger into the late fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about three-quarters of people who are allergic to spring plants are allergic to ragweed. Plus, let’s not forget mold. Mold spores love wet areas, which means piles of wet leaves can be its breeding ground. Dust is also a major allergy trigger. Turn on your heater and you stir them up. Those tiny bugs are in almost every home. According to The Weather Channel, Oklahoma City and Tulsa are two of America’s worst cities for fall allergies in 2015.

The top 15 worst cities for allergies are:

  1. Wichita, Kan.
  2. Jackson, Miss.
  3. Knoxville, Tenn.
  4. Louisville, Ky.
  5. Memphis, Tenn.
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Baton Rouge, La.
  8. Dayton, Ohio
  9. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  10. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  11. New Orleans
  12. Madison, Wis.
  13. Omaha, Neb.
  14. Little Rock, Ark.
  15. Tulsa, Okla.

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Bulk Sampling For Mold

Bulk Sampling is another technique used for direct examination. A direct exam allows for the immediate determination of the presence of fungal spores as well as what types of fungi are present. Direct examinations should only be used to sample visible mold growth in a contaminated area since most surfaces collect a mixture of fungal spores that are normally present in the environment.  Bulk Samples can be taking such as items as small pieces of drywall, plaster, paper, etc., that have suspect areas of growth and can be placed in a sterile container or new plastic bag to hold and properly transport to a lab for analysis.

Pros

  • The direct exam is inexpensive, and can be performed quickly.
  • A useful test for initial site sampling.
  • Direct examination of a surface indicates all mold present in a given area.
  • Direct sampling may reveal indoor reservoirs of spores that have not yet become airborne.

Bulk Sampling is very similar to all direct lift samples, except the suspect area itself is actually extracted from the area and placed into a bag whereas Surface or Tape/Swab sampling takes a lift of the suspect area onto a slide or the Swab itself and sent to a lab.

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