“Mold” and “mildew,” two little words that conjure up images of outdated bread and grungy bathroom grout—not severe allergic triggers and health hazards. Unfortunately, the presence of mold and mildew allergies in the home environment should be cause for concern. Mold and mildew are not only cosmetic problems; they can also cause serious, allergy-related health problems.
There’s Fungus Practically Everywhere—Mold, Mildew, and Allergies
Mold and mildew belong to the fungus family, living organisms that thrive in moist or wet conditions. The fungus family members are a motley crew of varied colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are rather tasty, like the Portabella mushroom. Other fungus family members, like the toadstool, are poisonous. And then there are those nasty fungus twins, mold and mildew.
When they move in to take over a room, decay and musty odors are sure to follow. Mold and mildew prefer to settle themselves in wet basements or anywhere near water. Leaky roofs, leaky pipes, leaky toilets—all of these conditions put out the welcome mat for mold and mildew. Wet decaying wood and drywall present a feast for mold and mildew. They suck up the nutrients from organic matter and quickly reproduce their spore, which develops into more mold and mildew. The unique musty odor spawned by mold and mildew assaults the nose and signals serious trouble. Mold and mildew are now firmly entrenched in the home, much to the surprise of the unsuspecting homeowner, and yet there is more trouble to be had.
Allergy Relief- Antihistamines and Other Treatments
Exposure to mold spores can trigger severe allergic reactions, especially in someone with a weakened immune system, an autoimmune disease, or cardio-pulmonary disease. A chain reaction ensues from exposure to mold and mildew, much like a multi-car pileup on the expressway. The human body reacts to the assault of foreign mold spores by releasing a flood of inflammatory histamines, an immune response that manifests in allergy symptoms. The milder allergy symptoms would include a stuffy or runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. Over the counter antihistamines, taken according to directions, can greatly relieve these mild to moderate allergy symptoms, but more severe allergic reactions may indicate medical intervention.
Severe allergic sensitivity to certain types of mold and mildew can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks, pneumonia, fungal infections, and exacerbate or even cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In severe allergic cases, a physician may prescribe antibiotics, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, or an albuterol nebulizer to help the patient breathe easier. While these treatments address the patient’s symptoms, removing the allergic trigger, the mold and mildew, offers the best solution to the problem.
Eradicating Mold and Mildew
The homeowner should make every effort to prevent mold from forming by checking for leaks and repairing water damaged areas immediately. Bleach and disinfectants provide effective mold remedy, but neither is fail-proof. Wearing a mask and taking over the counter antihistamines can provide temporary relief, but the allergy sensitive should remember that mold and mildew are triggers for allergies.