The spores of mold and mildew can never be entirely eliminated from the indoor environment. This poses a problem for those with mold allergies. It is possible, however, to reduce exposure to mold and thereby reduce the allergic response to it. Here are some simple household changes that can help.
Reduce Household Moisture to Slow the Growth of Molds
Decrease Indoor Humidity: All fungi require moisture, and typically thrive in moist, warm places. High humidity makes it easier for molds to grow. Keeping indoor humidity levels below 50% can help reduce the number of spores in the home and work environment (humidity between 45 and 35% is preferable).
If a dehumidifier is required to reduce indoor humidity levels, make sure to frequently empty and scrub the water collection tank and clean off the coils. Cool air holds less moisture, so using air conditioning during warm weather can also help to keep moisture levels low.
Frequently Clean Humid Areas of the Home: Molds are more prone to thrive in areas of the home that are frequently exposed high humidity, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Increasing ventilation, reducing humidity levels, and eliminating standing water can reduce the amount of mold in these areas. Use a dilute bleach solution to frequently clean sinks, tubs, showers, wastebaskets and other surfaces that are often exposed to moisture.
Removing carpeting and padding in all rooms is ideal if household members have mold allergies. But it is especially important to remove fabric flooring in humid areas of the home. Carpeting can retain moisture, house active fungi and collect large numbers of fungal spores.
Fix Water Leaks: A leaky roof or pipe can create high moisture levels between walls and above the ceiling, allowing mold to grow unchecked. Repair any household leaks as soon as they are noticed. Water-damaged walls and insulation should be replaced, or at least dried, and then painted after the leak is resolved.
HEPA Filter Can Remove Mold Spores
A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter attachment can be fitted to most household ventilation systems. This high-efficiency filter traps mold spores as they move from outdoors to the air circulated inside the home. In homes that have standard furnace filters, make sure that filters are frequently changed.
Close Windows at Night before Going to Bed
The concentration of airborne mold spores is highest at night, particularly when the weather is cool and damp. Closing windows, especially when mold counts are high, can help prevent outdoor spores from drifting into the home.
Reduce Mold Allergens in Bedding
Mattresses and pillows, particularly those made of foam, are prone to retain mold spores. Encasing these items in plastic anti-allergen coverings can reduce exposure to both mold and dust mites.
How to Reduce Exposure to Mold during Outdoor Activity
When doing yard work, wear a dust mask over nose and mouth to filter out mold spores, and, if possible, avoid going outdoors in especially damp weather and when mod counts are high. Decaying leaf piles and compost bins are prime sites for the growth of allergy-causing molds.
To learn more about mold allergies and relief of mold allergy symptoms, see the Suite101 articles:* Mold Allergy: Which Fungi Cause Allergies?
* Mold Allergy: Symptoms, Testing and Treatment
* Mold Allergy: Reduce Exposure to Fungal Spores
Mayo Clinic (2009) Mold Allergy.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (2005) Mold Allergy.
Huang, Shih-Wen (2009), Mold Allergies, MDeMedicine from MDWeb.
WebMD (2009) Mold Allergy.
Please note: The information in this article is not to be followed as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your physician or primary health practitioner for information regarding your own personal health and necessary treatments.
This article originally appeared in Suite101 online magazine.