Mold Allergy: Self-Defense Against Mold Allergies

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Alternaria. Aspergillus. Cladosporium. Penicillium. Unless you have a special fondness for fungi, you’re probably not too familiar with these or any of the thousands of other common molds.

But if you’re among the estimated 5% of Americans who have mold allergies, you may be all too well acquainted with the itchy allergic to mold, your goal should be to lower humidity in your home, not raise it. So forget about using a humidifier or vaporizer.

“Adding moisture is the last thing you want to do,” says Sublett. “There’s no evidence that humidifiers have health benefits, and lots of evidence that they promote the growth of mold.”

Pick up an inexpensive moisture meter (hygrometer), and take readings throughout your home. Pay special attention to bathrooms, the basement, and kitchen.

If the humidity exceeds 50% in any room, find ways to bring it down. One possibility is to boost ventilation by installing (and using) exhaust fans. If this doesn’t do the job, get a dehumidifier.

“Look for one that attaches to a central drain or to your heating and air conditioning system,” says Sublett. “Otherwise, you may find yourself spending all your time emptying buckets of water.”

4. Wear a Mask

Mold spores get stirred up every time you sweep, vacuum, or do yard work. To protect yourself at these times, use a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA air filter, and wear a filtration mask that is rated “N95” by the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH).

If possible, the mask should stay on for a couple of hours after you stop. It can take that long for spores to settle out of the air.

5. Rip Up the Carpet

As long as there is sufficient warmth and water, mold can grow on all sorts of common household items, including wood, paper products, foam rubber, wallboard, and carpet. Indoor plants can harbor mold as well.

If mold is a problem in your home, de-cluttering can help. Also, get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting in dank basements, steamy bathrooms, and in your bedroom, where you spend so much time.

6. Fix Up Your Furnace

Equip your furnace with a high-efficiency filter that has a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of at least 11. Replace the filter every three months, and have your furnace serviced every six months. It’s also a good idea to put a HEPA air filter in your bedroom and in any other rooms where you spend significant amounts of time.