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Indoor Allergens: Beware of Mold and Dust Mites

You may think that keeping yourself locked away indoors can prevent you from having an allergy attack, but there are several things hiding indoors that have the potential of causing an allergic reaction. There are two common household occurrences that may be making you sneeze without you even know it. The mold in your bathroom and dust under your bed may be the cause of your constant stuffiness. Here are some ways to identify these household allergic substances and tips on allergy prevention in the home.

Mold Defined
Mold is part of the fungus family. There are thousands of different types of molds in the fungus family. While yeasts (also part of the fungus family) are single cells that divide into clusters, molds are composed of many cells that branch out and grow threads.

The reproductive seeds of mold are called spores. Each spore can create new mold growth. A good climate for mold growth requires moisture, oxygen, and shade. Mold can thrive under these conditions outdoors in rotting logs or fallen leaves in moist shady areas, but mold is also found indoors.

Indoor Mold
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, common areas for mold growth in the home include damp basements and closets, bathrooms, place where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pillows.

Mold Allergy
The tiny fungal spores of mold can cause allergic rhinitis if inhaled. The small size of mold spores makes it easier for the sports to reach the lungs through inhalation. The mold spore, like pollen, is an airborne allergen but is only a problem if spores are numerous, allergenic, and light enough to be carried by the air. Luckily, there are only a few dozed different types of molds that can cause allergies.

The molds most commonly found both indoors and outdoors in the U.S. include Alternaria and Cladosporium but Aspergillus, Penicillium, Helminthosporium, Epicocum, Fusarium, Mucor, Rhizopus, and Aureobasidium are also common.

Avoid Mold
To avoid mold try to steer away from piles of raked leaves or uncut fields because they are a breeding ground for mold growth. Also remember to keep windows and doors closed and use air conditioning and a dehumidifier to reduce humidity indoors. Make sure you clean moldy surfaces and keep those areas dry.

Dust Mites Defined
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, a dust mite measures only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter. They thrive in temperatures from 68 to 77 degrees and humidity levels from 70 to 80 percent.

House dust mites usually live in bedding, carpets, and upholstered furniture. They flourish in summer and usually die in winter unless the house is warm and humid even during winter. If this is the case, dust mites can live all year round. It is in fact the particles of dead dust mites and their waste products that initiate an allergic reaction.

Get Rid of Dust Mites
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases notes that dust mites are probably the most common cause of perennial allergic rhinitis. Most dust mites live in the bedroom so in order to gain control over dust mite allergy, the bedroom should be your first focus for improvement.

The AAFA provides several ways to reduce the amount of dust mites in your home:

  • Cover mattresses and pillows in zippered dust-proof covers
  • Wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water (at least 130 degrees F)
  • Steer away from wall-to-wall carpeting, blinds, wool blankets, upholstered furniture, and down covers and pillows
  • Keep pets out of the room
  • Use roll-type shades for windows rather than curtains; if you do use curtains, wash them often

Allergy supply companies can also provide you will special filters for vacuum cleaners to prevent mite waste from circulating back into the air during vacuuming. Another tip is to reduce the humidity in your home through the use of a dehumidifier or air conditioner. This may help for those with a mold allergy as well.

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