What can I do to minimize the mold in my home?

DEAR DOCTOR K:

We just found out that my son is extremely allergic to mold. What can I do to minimize the mold in my home?

DEAR READER:

Even if your son is getting allergy shots or taking medications, the best way to control his allergy is to reduce his exposure to mold.

Mold, along with mildew and yeasts, are the spores of fungi. Spores are very light and travel in the air. Because spores are capable of surviving in dry, unpleasant conditions, they can live a long time. But they especially thrive in damp, warm environments.

Indoor molds are very common. More than 1,000 different molds live in homes in the United States. The best way to avoid indoor mold is to prevent it from forming in the first place. Molds like moist places, so try to find and fix sources of dampness.

To further minimize indoor mold:

  • Keep humidity levels in your home as low as you can. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months.
  • Be sure your home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans in bathrooms and in the kitchen. Install a bathroom exhaust fan that vents directly to the outside.
  • Clean mold-covered surfaces with a 1-to-10 ratio of bleach to water.
  • If mold has entered drywall or insulation in your home, you’ll have to rip it out and replace it.
  • Remove mold-infested carpets and upholstery and throw away any moldy items (including clothing, books and papers).
  • Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paint when redecorating.
  • If you have house plants, don’t overwater; it encourages mold in the soil.

I’ve put additional tips for minimizing mold in the home on my website, below.

Molds also live outdoors. Levels of some spores peak in late summer or early fall. Anyone allergic to mold should avoid areas that are likely to have it, such as wooded areas, compost piles, cut grass and piles of damp, raked leaves. Remove damaged wood from your yard, since molds live on wet, rotten wood.

Also, when possible, encourage your son to avoid outdoor activities on windy and rainy days. Mold spore counts increase in warm, humid weather and immediately after summer rainstorms.

As I’m sure you know, mold allergies are very common. In some people, molds can trigger asthma. I have a mold allergy that inflames my nose. For me and most of my patients with mold allergies, carefully eliminating or reducing exposure to molds using the suggestions I’ve described gives sufficient relief.

However, when constant stuffy and runny nose, sinus congestion and asthma persist despite everything, allergy treatments can help. Allergy shots (called subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT) can give considerable additional relief.

Tips and techniques for preventing mold

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