Even if you are receiving allergy shots or taking medication, the most effective way to ensure that your shots and other allergy drugs work properly is to minimize your exposure to allergens. Preventative medicine is the best medication! The most frequent symptom of allergic rhinitis is a stuffy or runny nose. Pollen (from trees, grass, and weeds), dust mites and cockroaches, pet dander, and mold are the major allergens that cause it (the allergy trigger that can be the most challenging to identify).
Other fungi and molds
Fungi spores (molds, mildew, yeasts, and mushrooms) are ubiquitous and, like pollen, are extremely light and easily dispersed via the air. Fungal spores can survive for an extended period of time in dry, unfavorable circumstances. However, they flourish best in a moist, warm climate, whether indoors or out.
Many people are allergic to mold, and it can worsen asthma in certain people. Physicians have long recognized a link between respiratory disorders induced by mold spore inhalation and an allergic response.
Alternaria, whose spore count peaks in late summer or early fall, and Cladosporium, whose spore count peaks in the summer months, are two outdoor molds. Individuals allergic to mold should avoid wooded environments and activities such as raking damp leaves. Additionally, stay indoors on windy and wet days, as mold spore counts increase in warm, humid conditions and soon after summer rainstorms.
Indoor molds are equally prevalent, with over 1,000 different mold species identified in American houses. Indoor mold exposure has been associated with rhinitis symptoms, as well as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Advice on avoiding mold
The most effective method of avoiding mold allergens is to minimize mold formation in the first place. Molds thrive in moist environments, so seek out and eliminate sources of moisture.
Outside, sensitive individuals should avoid regions prone to mold growth, such as compost dumps, freshly cut grass, and wooded areas. Mold likes to grow on decaying plants, like wet, rotten wood. You should get rid of any wood that isn't in good shape.
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Additional tips for minimizing indoor mold include the following:
Maintain as low a humidity level as possible during the day—no more than 50%. During humid months, use an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
Ascertain that appropriate ventilation is provided throughout the home, including exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. Install an exhaust fan in the bathroom that vents straight to the outside.
Bleach and water can be used to clean mold-covered surfaces (1:10 ratio). Never combine bleach and ammonia. If mold has entered the walls and insulation, they must be removed and replaced.
Remove mold-infested carpets and upholstery, and throw away any moldy clothes, books, and papers.
Bathrooms and basements should not be carpeted.
When renovating, incorporate mold inhibitors into the paint.
If you have indoor plants, avoid overwatering; this promotes mold growth in the soil.
For additional information on diagnosing and managing allergies, see "Controlling Your Allergies," a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report.
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