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Seven Things You Should Know About Mold Allergy

The University of Michigan Health System reports that because of the wet and relatively mild weather this winter throughout much of the country - particularly the Northwest and parts of the Midwest - mold and other spring allergies could be especially bad this year. While numbers are inconclusive on how many people are sensitized or allergic to mold, it is a common problem.

"With the dampness and lack of snow cover we've had, we may have more molds this year than in years past," says Andrew Singer, M.D., clinical instructor in the Department of Internal Medicine's Division of Allergy and Immunology and in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Singer says that of the patients he sees who have hay fever or nasal allergies, 20 to 30 percent of them also have sensitivities to various molds and that mold can be a big problem for people with asthma. Mold allergy symptoms may include a running nose, frequent sneezing, red and itchy eyes, as well as symptoms in asthmatics that may include increased coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and a greater need for rescue medications used to control asthma.

According to the University of Michicgan Health System, here are seven things you should know about mold and allergies:

1. People with sensitivities or allergies to mold should limit camping and walks through tall plant growth, limit their exposure to disturbed plant materials, seal off moisture sources and use humidifiers indoors, beware of cool-mist vaporizers that can harbor mold if not cleaned daily, and remove visible mold by scouring with a bleach solution.

2. Mold allergies can trigger a person's asthma, as well as causing symptoms such as sneezing, or a stuffy or runny nose.

3. Signs of a mold problem in the house include: moisture or water damage such as leaks, stains, discoloration on the walls; growths that are black, yellow or other colors and have a texture like leather, cotton or velvet; and musty or earthy odors.

4. While some mold is visible, mold growths also can hide under flooring, behind furniture, or inside of walls.

5. There are more than 100,000 types of mold. Varieties of black mold can be particularly harmful to one's health.

6. When mold is growing on porous materials such as drywall, plaster, paneling, ceiling tiles or carpet, completely remove the material, bag it, and discard it. Non-porous materials, such as metal and glass, do not need to be discarded.

7. If you have allergies, asthma or emphysema, check with your doctor before cleaning an area that has mold, or have someone else do the cleanup.

"Mold can be very difficult to get rid of once it has gotten into your house. I think first and foremost, you should make sure you eliminate the source of the water, fix any leaky pipes and keep the internal environment as dry as you can. Then you should use a bleach solution to clean the obvious mold that you see," Singer says. "The problem a lot of times is with porous things such as wall board, fiber board and insulation, where you may clean only the surface mold and not touch the mold that's deep down below the surface."

He also recommends that they see their allergist, internal medicine provider or family medicine provider to make sure a chronic sinus infection isn't causing the symptoms.

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