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Mold is a fungus that can grow on many surfaces inside and outside the home. Outdoors, it is often found in damp soil, on fallen leaves, in compost piles, and on grasses and grains. Indoors, it can grow in any area that is damp such as the kitchen, bathrooms, or the basement. Mold produces seeds called spores. These spores can become airborne when it is windy or when they are disturbed, such as by digging in soil or by shaking a shower curtain where mold is growing. When these spores are inhaled, they can cause an allergic reaction or may settle in the lungs where they can cause infections which can lead to the development of asthma.
In cold climates, mold can become dormant during colder times of year, then grow up in the spring on plants that were killed by the cold. In warm climates and indoors, mold can grow year-round which means people can have allergic reactions to mold any time during the year.
The symptoms of mold allergies are similar to other allergies and may include sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion, and dry or scaly skin. Mold that gets into the nose can cause symptoms similar to hay fever. Mold that gets down into the lungs can cause more serious illnesses including asthma. People who are allergic to mold may notice that their allergy symptoms get worse when they are in a damp or moldy area such as a basement.
People who are allergic to other allergens such as pollens or animal dander are more likely to be allergic to mold. There are many types of mold and other fungi, so it is possible to be allergic to one type of mold but not be allergic to others.
The best way to reduce mold allergy symptoms is stay away from mold. These methods can help reduce mold in your home:
• Keep outdoor mold out by keeping doors and windows closed and using air conditioner filters that are designed to filter allergens.
• Reduce humidity in the home by using dehumidifiers. Humidity indoors should be less than 40 percent.
• Make sure humid areas such as bathrooms are well ventilated. Remember to use exhaust fans or place a fan in an open window.
• Fix water leaks quickly.
• Use HEPA filters on vacuums and on air filters.