By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE
Mold may be the cause of allergies, runny nose
Our entire household has had runny noses this past month. Could it be from allergies?
There’s a good chance an environmental allergen is making your family ill. It might be worth obtaining an environmental assessment of your home for toxic mold or other allergens.
With the massive amounts of rain that St. Tammany has had in recent weeks there’s a good chance it could be mold. Mold is fungi found virtually everywhere indoors and outdoors. Mold grows in and on plants, foods, dry leaves and in soil. Molds produce microscopic cells called spores, which act like seeds to form new mold growths called colonies. These spores are very light and travel easily through air.
Moisture is a very important element of mold growth. Of the thousands and thousands of different mold varieties, only a few are toxic, but prolonged exposure to these can cause serious illness and in some cases even death. Mold needs only a few simple things to grow – moisture, a food source and suitable housing. Molds prefer warm, dark, unventilated places.
The major problem with mold is when it grows indoors. Mold eats the organic material in our homes and buildings, causing structural problems. Spores can also become concentrated in the indoor air, which can cause health problems such as allergic rhinitis, sinusitis and asthma.
Signs you have mold in your home:
- A musty odor
- Discolored patches or cottony growth along floors, walls, and furniture
- Excessive moisture (signs of past water damage)
What to do if you find mold:
- Identify and fix the moisture problem
Maintain relative humidity between 30 and 50 percent
- Ventilate and dehumidify area
- Dry all wet areas, using fans and dehumidifiers
- Remove the affected materials (carpet, wood, drywall, insulation, plaster, ceiling tiles, etc.)
You can test for mold in air ducts and other suspicious areas by using tape. Take a strip of tape and slide it into the duct. When you pull it out, if there is a black or greenish substance on the tape, it is probably mold.
When testing for mold or attempting to clean areas affected by mold, wear a respirator, protective gloves, eye goggles and protective clothing. New test kits are available to test for mold in your home.
How to prevent mold:
- Maintain low indoor humidity
- Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months
- Be sure you have adequate ventilation
- Add mold inhibitors to paints
- Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products
- Do not carpet bathrooms
- Remove and replace flooded carpets
- Repair leaking plumbing
- Wash mold off of hard surfaces and dry completely
- Don’t let foundations stay wet
- Use an ionized air purifier
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/iaq.
This article was originally published November 12, 2002 in The St. Tammany News.