The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC has ended, but our allergies are just beginning. What’s making you sneeze and your eyes water, nose run, throat tickle? Pollen is the usual culprit, and gets much of the blame. But mold, seen and unseen, may be playing a bigger role in your springtime suffering than you realize.
Most people assume that their symptoms are caused by pollen and ragweed, so they diligently close windows and turn up the air conditioning. You may be so focused on the allergens outdoors, however, that you could be missing equally troublesome irritants, like mold and mildew, inside.
Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, indicate that indoor air pollution is at least twice as high as outdoor air pollution. As indoor ventilation tends to be limited, allergens like mold can wreak havoc. If you are taking allergy medication and keeping your windows closed, yet are still suffering from symptoms generally caused by allergens, you should consider having your home tested for mold and indoor air quality. You also should take the following steps to reduce household mold:
- Remove organic debris from your gutters and yard – especially if it is decomposing. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold.
- Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, windowsills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth.
- Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess moisture. Also, make sure the exhaust fan is cleaned every 3 months.
- Use a dehumidifier – especially in damp areas of your home. Keep the dehumidifier set at 50% humidity. Any more than that will encourage mold growth.
- Try to keep your home dry and ventilated.
- Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth.
- Regularly check under sinks for leaks. Mold can grow quickly where there’s moisture.
- Don’t put wet shoes or damp clothing in your closets. Let them dry fully first to avoid mold growth.
If you are having problems with allergies and medication doesn’t seem to be clearing it up, have your home tested by an independent professional, like RTK, to see if mold may be the culprit. Once the source of mold is pinpointed, the professional can help you devise a remediation plan. It is important that the testing company does not also do remediation because of the inherent conflict of interest. In such a case, you may be setting yourself up for inflated bills and unnecessary repairs. For more about hidden allergy triggers, read this article from WebMD.