Stuffy nose, slight cough, and watery eyes—seasonal allergies are back again. Or are they? If you find yourself sniffling long past the typical high pollen dates, there’s a chance you could be dealing with the effects of mold.
What is mold?
Mold is a fungus that grows in areas of high moisture, both indoors and outdoors. In homes, mold is often found after flooding, or in areas that often stay damp, such as bathrooms or leaks in windows or roofs. It often grows well on paper and wood products, but can also be found in the home anywhere from paint, upholstery and fabrics. There are a huge variety of mold species some of which can create very real and serious health challenges.
Short-term exposure to mold toxins can cause even healthy people to experience side effects such as upper respiratory symptoms that are often mistaken for a cold or allergies. In children, older people and those with chronic illness or a compromised immune system, mold can trigger more serious responses such as asthma attacks and trouble breathing. Long-term exposure to mold toxins has been associated with many immunological and inflammatory conditions including cancer and chronic inflammatory response syndrome (C.I.R.S.).
Finding and controlling mold growth in homes
If you suspect that your home has mold growing it, you can purchase an at-home test kit to confirm it. Once confirmed you may want to ask a professional to help determine the extent of growth in order to adequately remediate. Because of the potential health hazards, it is not advised to do the remediation on your own especially if it involves removing flooring or wallboard.
The best way to combat mold growth is to pay attention to moisture levels inside. This includes cleaning thoroughly after flooding, fixing leaks and controlling the humidity in homes. In areas with naturally high humidity levels, such as the bathroom or laundry room, ensure that the space is properly ventilated to let the wet air escape.
The ideal relative humidity in a home should be between 30 and 50 percent, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. These levels can be measured using a moisture or humidity reader, which can be found at many local hardware stores. Air filters may also be helpful to help clear the air of any spores or other particles that could trigger an allergic response in the home. The most important thing to keep in mind, is that mold can grow quickly, so you must act quicker!
Fighting the physical effects of mold exposure
Your first defense against toxic mold is to avoid exposure altogether. If it is impossible to avoid exposure, do your best to minimize it.
Like any pathogen, the best way to combat the side effects of toxic mold exposure is with a healthy immune system. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) can help create nutrition, supplement and lifestyle plans to help boost immune protection before allergy events or relieve symptoms during.
Most importantly, the naturopathic approach looks at symptoms from a holistic view, meaning a wide range of factors (physical health, emotional health, social factors, effects of medications, etc.) are considered as possible contributors to discomfort or sickness. Instead of treating isolated symptoms, NDs will work with you to identify underlying causes for allergy symptoms to effectively treat and prevent sickness from occurring in the future. This could include doing very specific testing to uncover immune challenges to which you may be inadvertently exposing yourself. Many times simple changes to the diet such as eliminating certain foods can make a profound difference. Also, adding foods high in fiber, rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and anti-inflammatories such as omega-3 fatty acids can keep your immune system balanced, armed and ready.
If your allergy symptoms aren’t getting relief indoors or in the colder months when pollen is less prevalent, it might be time to look for another cause and treat symptoms in another way.
If you would like to learn more send me an email or give me a call.