By Dr. Jay Portnoy
For the more than 40 to 50 million American adult and children who suffer from the misery and discomfort of allergies, protecting themselves and their families from exposure to the usual suspects-ragweed and pollen-means locking them selves indoors. Unfortunately, this step could actually be causing more harm than good.
Most people are unaware that a culprit inside their very home-common household mold-may be triggering their children's allergy symptoms.
When exposed to allergens from molds and airborne mold spores, either by direct contact or by inhalation, sensitive individuals may experience common symptoms of a mold allergy including nasal congestion, coughing, upper respiratory distress, chronic headaches and flu-like symptoms. While mold exposure is associated with episodes of asthma, it remains unclear whether this exposure actually causes the disease.
Molds are ever-present in our environment, and the home environment is no exception. While most household molds have an outdoor source, they easily gain access to the home through open windows and doors. Once inside, mold spores can colonize on exposed surfaces, such as windowsills, refrigerator seals, shower grout, spaces underneath kitchen sinks and air vents, thriving with only a source of food and moisture such as bathroom showers, steam from cooking, plumbing leaks, etc.
Common household mold, visibly growing in the shower or invisible on the windowsill can be found in virtually all homes. Unlike the uncommon, so-called "toxic" mold, which has been overly publicized by the media, common household mold can be easily and effectively cleaned by the homeowner.
Keeping the Home Clean
Indoor mold management is a case where an ounce of prevention truly is better than a pound of cure. Regular inspection and proper cleaning can prevent many fungus-related problems. While there is no known way to make the home 100 percent mold free, there are simple things that parents can do to effectively limit mold growth and clean the mold that does get through and, therefore, limit their children's exposure.
- Clean regularly: Disinfect mold-prone surfaces regularly with a bleach-based product that has been tested and approved to kill mold. Remember allergy or asthma sufferers can be particularly sensitive to cleaning products and should avoid direct use.
- Reduce mold growth by reducing moisture in the home by:
- Maintaining indoor relative humidity between 35-50 percent;
- Fixing leaking pipes immediately and preventing water from intruding into the house (sloping the landscape away from the house);
- Using exhaust fans to increase bathroom and kitchen ventilation;
- Using air conditioning during the summer months at times of high humidity.
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