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Behold the Fall Mold

Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons in the Northeast. As the crisp air swirls through the trees and the rain sets in, leaves start to change from green to vibrant shades of crimson and mustard. For a brief time, the fallen leaves sit stiffly on the wet grass trapping dampness underneath before degrading to a dull brown. As beautiful as the leaves are and as wonderful as it is to run through piles of them, for people who are sensitive to mold, this is the worst time of year.

According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (www.aaaai.org), outdoor mold counts for the major US cities regularly exceed 10,000 spores per cubic meter during most of the year. Studies indicate that the fungal levels vary by region, season, and weather conditions, including rain and wind. In the Philadelphia and New Jersey region, a good source for mold and pollen count is The Asthma Center website http://www.asthmacenter.com/index.php/pollen/. The doctors continually monitor the pollen and mold spores in the area for a 24 hour period and post online what you can expect for the day. This information is also on a board in their office. The counts are listed from “Not Seen” to “Extreme”. Nationally, the AAAAI’s website counts mold and pollen exposure in the USA, Canada and Argentina and can be found at http://pollen.aaaai.org/nab/index.cfm?p=pollen.

Mold Charts are based on calculations per cubic meter:
Absent = 0
Low = 1-6,499
Moderate = 6,500 – 12,999
High = 13,000 – 49,999
Very High/Extreme= > 50,000

Mold spores are a natural part of the environment and have an important job. They grow on dead organic matter such as dead trees or leaves and break them down. Molds reproduce by means of small spores carried airborne. These spores are so minute that you can not see them with the naked eye, only under a microscope. The perfect storm for a mold population growth is the fall weather. What will make the mold outbreak even worse are warmer temperatures following days of heavy rain.

Allergic reactions from outdoor exposures can not only affect allergy sensitive individuals, but everyone. The minute particles are breathed in through our noses causing sneezing, runny noses, and red irritated eyes. For those with extreme allergies to mold, the symptoms can be life threatening. Asthma attacks can be intense and immediate.

So what can we do to alleviate mold exposures? For good measure, we can take showers in the evening before going to bed to remove the mold spores from our skin and hair. We can use saline nasal sprays or washes to remove the spores from our nose throughout the day and we can be mindful to take allergy medications as prescribed by our doctors. Those people with dogs and cats should also be careful to groom pets more often to reduce the allergens coming into the homes and prevent them from spreading to the clothes, furniture, or bedding. If there is carpeting in the house, this would be a good time to do some extra vacuuming with a good machine that has a hepa filter and be sure to wash floors. Also, wash any small area rugs and keep linens washed in hot water and dried in a dryer, not outside where mold spores can be caught. And lastly, keeping the humidity levels in your home under 50% will help to control mold and mildew, as well as dust mites and bacteria.

Of course, we cannot eliminate the natural process of mold, but with a little diligence, we can certainly be mindful until the first freeze hits and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

 

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