AchooAllergy.com Blog

Mold Prevention


Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Part of my Thanksgiving holiday was spent tackling a chore that I really don't like this time of year - raking leaves. I love trees as much as the next tree hugger but after having mulched up and filled over two dozen bags worth of leaves, I dread stiff breezes. The yard will be clean then along comes the wind to spoil it. Aside from the hassle that fall leaves present, they can and do lead to bigger problems when left to lay where they fall. What's the problem you ask?

After I Raked Away the Leaves, I Got A Surprise.  No, It's Not SnowSunday I was raking up an area on the side of the house. I often neglect it simply because it's a smaller space, but it does tend to fill with maple and oak leaves as well as pine needles. When I was done, it was nearly dark, but I noticed white splotches on the ground. No, it's not snow. It was entirely too warm for that... Mold!

Mold spores are all around us, and given the right conditions, mold can quickly turn from spores to actively growing colonies. Fall leaves often present the perfect opportunity for mold growth. The dead leaves provide the perfect cellulose based food source, and when enough of them fall in any area, they form an insulating barrier over the soil. This barrier helps to trap warmth but more importantly moisture, which is critical for mold growth. In this situation, all of the conditions for mold growth are set, oxygen, food, and moisture.

This type of scenario is fairly common during this time of year, regardless of where you live in the U.S. Actively growing mold colonies can create problems for anyone but particularly those who deal with allergies and asthma. The substances produced by mold colonies can range from the benign to the toxic and cause symptoms that can include dermatitis, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, red eyes and wheezing. So what can you do?

Well, the easy approach is stay holed up for the winter and "much like the bear do," sleep your way through winter. For most of us though, that notion is nothing more than a pleasant fiction. Besides, by the time spring rolls around, you'll still be dealing with mold. Removing it can be simple enough, provided you have the time and the right tools. Raking up and bagging leaves is the tried and true way to remove much of this problem, but while you're doing so, there are a couple of things you should do to reduce your exposure to mold.

I always wear gloves. It's not because I have delicate hands, but there can be a variety of decaying leaves, pine needles and other debris that can range from being bone dry to gelatinous mush. Second, I always wear a mask. Something as basic as an N95 respirator can effectively block mold spores.

Even when the weather is dry, there can be, and still often is, mold lurking under the leaves or pine needles. Dust is also a concern under these conditions. I often mulch the leaves into a bagger before dumping them into a refuse bag, and I'm Certain I Could Shake the Rest of the Leaves Out With This! this can create a LOT of dust. Any time I do not wear a mask, my throat and nose will feel "funny" for a while afterwards. It's some odd mix of dry but congested and feeling like I inhaled sand. I also change my clothes before and after to also help keep from bringing the dust and mold spores inside and spreading them all over the house.

Generally, if you can manage to keep the leaves and pine needles picked up, you will go a long way towards reducing the mold or fungus that can pop up in your yard or garden. Now, if I could only figure out a way to shake the hell out of those trees to get the last of the leaves off.....

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, July 22, 2013
Choose from three American Made AprilAire Dehumidifiers to Control Mold and MoistureWell, they're back - AprilAire whole house dehumidifiers. Powerful, these dehumidifiers can help reduce moisture throughout your home by using your existing ductwork. Locate them in your basement and duct them directly into your HVAC to dry air while you cool.

Excess moisture and humidity during the summer months can lead to swelling of wood furniture and trim but more importantly, all that extra water in the air in your home can allow mold to grow. Mold can create harmful mycotoxins that can cause respiratory problems for anyone living in the home, particularly allergy or asthma sufferers. Sneezing, wheezing, congestion, and other cold like symptoms are common reactions from exposure to mold.

From bathrooms and laundry rooms to kitchens and even inside walls, mold can flourish in parts of your home that never you never even see. Removing moisture can not only reduce the risk of mold growth but also help keep dust mites under control and actually help to reduce your cooling bill. Moist air can retain more heat than dry air, so by driving the indoor relative humidity down, the air in your home can cool quicker while requiring less power to do so.

AprilAire dehumidifiers are made in the USA and feature a built-in humidistat, a MERV 8 air filter, auto restart and auto defrost, steel construction, and can be tied into your existing HVAC ducts and condensate line. We recommend that you consult a local HVAC contractor or professional for installation of the AprilAire 1750 or the powerful AprilAire 1770 dehumidifier. Take advantage now during this muggy, wet summer and save, as all AprilAire dehumidifiers are now on sale!

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, July 01, 2013
Every year it seems that summertime brings some very contrasting sets of weather to different parts of the country. This time last year the Midwest was in the midst of a severe drought, and while that continues in some areas, in other areas it is rain, rain and more rain. Here in just a couple days I will be headed back north to spend time with the family for the 4th of July, and while I expected part of my time up there to be spent in the hayfield, I will likely be repairing fence lines that were washed away by flooding last week.

Fence lines, though tedious, are a relatively easy fix. Dig a hole, set a post, restring barb. Cleaning up your home after a flood, though, is a bit trickier. Drying out is the first step, and depending on the severity of your water problem, you have a few options.

Flood Restoration DehumidifierFor flood waters that were relatively mild, meaning they didn't soak your walls or drown your washing machine, a smaller, room dehumidifier can be effective. Most have the ability to be ported with a garden hose to eliminate the need to empty a condensate reservoir. Set the dehumidifier up, attach the line, then set it and let it run.

For more severe flooding, like something that has soaked, the floors, walls, appliances, your task is a bit more difficult since it likely means replacing drywall or paneling. For this type of flooding, parts of your home and basement that are not visible have often been saturated. After the waters begin to recede (or you have pumped them out), a larger, home restoration dehumidifier is likely your best bet. These larger models have a higher drying capacity and can remove more moisture per day. All can be ported and many have internal pumps that can actually push the water away from the drying area. Fans can help by keeping the air circulating while a restoration dehumidifier works. Once the space is dry again, then the work of replacing, repairing and restoring begins.

Flood Waters Don't Like FencepostsCleaning up after a flood can be simple to intensive, depending on your specific situation. Regardless of severity, the sooner you get the space dried, the sooner repair can begin and the less likely you are to be dealing with mold. Mold thrives in a warm moist environment, so your basement after a flood is a veritable paradise to mold. And this, falls into the "Not Good" category, as mold growth can often lead to long term problems throughout your home.

So aside from enjoying the fireworks and grilling out, I will be spending my 4th helping rebuild fence lines. Aren't summers great?


For more information on Flood Cleanup or to learn about how flood water can impact your health.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, July 13, 2012
After last week's record breaking heat and dry conditions, the pendulum has swung the other way. This week has provided continuing warm temperatures but also violent storms, high humidity and plenty of rain. The last part of this equation is much needed in many parts of the country, but the humid and hot conditions are also bringing along a very unwelcomed guest for allergy sufferers - mold spores.

Mold spores are all around us nearly all of the time. They float through the air and settle all around. For most of us, they only really become a problem when conditions allow them to grow from dormant spores to active colonies. Active mold colonies decompose the cellulose materials they settle upon, like wood, paper, plant matter and even microscopic bits of cellulose that can settle out of the air. This is why you will see mold grown on even plastic surfaces. While the actual plastic is not being consumed by the mold, microscopic bits of plant matter and debris that settles on the plastic is.

Mold in Petri Dish - Cappuccino Anyone?As mold grows, it begins pumping more spores out into the air. For allergy sufferers, these spores can aggravate allergic or asthmatic reactions. Other substances that mold colonies produce, like mycotoxins, can be cause respiratory issues even for healthy, non-allergenic adults.

Most of the time, we think about mold spores effecting people during the fall months. This is typically when large amounts of foliage falls to the ground and decomposes. This decomposition is driven by mold. However, when the summer months bring heat, humidity and rain, this too can cause the mold spore count to spike dramatically.

Mold Spore ChartAs evidenced by mold spore counts in places like Austin, TX, summer heat and rain can drive up the amount of mold in the air. On Wednesday, researchers at the Allergy & Asthma Associates in Austin counted 27,262 mold spores per cubic meter of air. This measurement falls firmly in the "High" count category (13,000 to 49,999) and far surpasses the standard average for Austin during this time of year.

For allergy sufferers, this means being mindful of the conditions around you. As mold spore counts rise, so too do the cases of sinus infections and allergy related symptoms. There are a few things you can do to cut down on the likelihood of mold spores slowing you down or causing an infection. When outdoors, keep a mask or respirator handy, particularly while doing yard work. In the evenings, it may also be helpful to use a Neti pot and rinse your sinuses. Also keep in mind that when the humidity outdoors is up, it is often up indoors as well. A dehumidifier, placed in the basement, crawlspace or living area, can remove excess moisture from the air in your home and make those spaces inhospitable for mold growth. Lastly, running a HEPA air purifier in your bedroom can help filter out spores that may be carried in on clothing and simply through air circulating through your home.

As the the days of hot, humid rain continue throughout the eastern part of the country, look for mold spore counts to rise considerably as favorable conditions allow mold to proliferate.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

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