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Pierre P. Gagnon, MD
Understanding Mold Allergies and Reducing Exposure
Pierre-Paul Gagnon, MD

Understanding Mold Allergies and Reducing Exposure

What Is Mold?
Molds are microscopic fungi which, unlike plants, are unable to produce their own food from sunlight and air. Molds are made up of clusters of filaments and live on plant or animal matter which they decompose for their nourishment. With tens of thousands of different varieties, molds are among the most widespread living organisms. Many molds reproduce by releasing spores into the air which then settle on organic matter and grow into new mold clusters. These airborne mold spores are far more numerous than pollen grains and, when inhaled, can produce allergic symptoms.
Where Are Molds Found?
Molds can be found in most environments and, unlike pollens, do not have a strictly limited season. Mold growth is encouraged by warmth and high humidity, and therefore, growth is most prevalent during the humid seasons of the year.
Molds are found out-of-doors and in the home. Mold spores produced outside become widely dispersed through the air and can enter the home. Other molds are produced in the home, especially in areas of high humidity such as showers and basements.
How To Control Mold
Mold flourishes in dark, damp places, which are poorly ventilated and in areas where water pools. Moisture and warmth can accelerate the growth of dormant mildew spores on most surfaces. Once the area of mold growth has been identified, a mildewcide should be used to kill the mold spores and an inhibitor used to prevent re-growth. Modifications such as increased ventilation and proper drainage should be used to discourage mold growth.
Molds can accumulate in house dust from two sources; as outdoor spores that have entered the home or as mold growing within the home environment. Proper filtration can help prevent mold from entering living quarters. Air conditioners and vent openings are prime locations for trapping molds at point-of-entry. Vent or central furnace filters and room air cleaners are helpful in removing airborne spores. Units with heating elements to kill airborne mold spores can prevent the spread of mold. A tight-fitting face mask is important for preventing the inhalation of mold spores when doing yard work and basement cleaning projects.
Throughout the House
Very tightly insulated houses prevent the escape of moisture and thus encourage mold growth. Allow adequate ventilation.
Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier in times of high humidity to help trap airborne allergens, use a special air conditioner filter and/or a HEPA room air cleaner.
Clean all visible mold from walls and ceilings.
Although indoor plants are not a major source of indoor mold spores, it is prudent to limit the number of houseplants.
Mold is present on the bark of wood. If using a fireplace, do not store any firewood inside.
In the Bedroom
Avoid foam rubber pillows and mattresses as they are particularly likely to become moldy.
Mold tends to grow in closets. Dry all shoes and boots thoroughly before storing.
In the Bathroom
Use an exhaust fan or open windows to remove humidity after showering.
Use a squeegee to remove excess water from the shower stall, tub and tiles.
Wash shower curtain, bathroom tiles, shower stall, tub and toilet tank with mold-killing and mold-preventing solutions.
Do not carpet the bathroom.
In the Kitchen
Use an exhaust fan to remove cooking vapors.
Mold grows in refrigerators, particularly around door gaskets. Empty water pans below self-defrosting units frequently. Remove spoiling foods.
Empty garbage containers frequently and keep them clean to prevent the growth of mold.
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