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Mold


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, September 24, 2012
No, it's not your imagination. This fall's allergy season has been a miserable one. Across the nation, allergists and physicians are seeing more people in their offices, many of whom have never suffered from fall allergies before. With more people across all ages suffering, many people are asking, why?

Ragweed - King of Fall AllergensFall allergy season revolves around two main types of allergens - ragweed pollen and mold spores. While cedar/juniper pollen and other fall pollinators contribute, the bulk of late season allergy sufferers are effected by ragweed and mold.

Of these two, ragweed is the fall King of Allergens. Each plant can produce billions of pollen granules which are light enough to easily be carried by a stiff breeze. This year, the drought gripping the majority of the US has exacerbated ragweed pollen counts. Drier than normal conditions have allowed for pollen to spread far and wide.

Wildfires Making Allergies Far WorseThroughout the west, wildfires continue to dump tons of smoke and ash into the air. Those with pre-existing heart or lung conditions, as well as allergy and asthma sufferers, can be particularly vulnerable to these types of pollutants. And while the physical damage that these fires can cause is relatively local, the smoke and pollution from miles of burning forest can reach across several states.

The drought is the ultimate culprit for this year's poorer than average air quality. Dry air and a severe lack of rain has allowed for an expanded reach of ragweed pollen while simultaneously creating a tinderbox of forests. Long term weather patterns aren't providing much hope. Drier and warmer than normal conditions are expected to persist for several more weeks, and for most, relief won't come until the first frost of the year.

Until then, keep an eye on your local air quality index and try to limit outdoor activity during the worst days/times of day. For persistent conditions like coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, congestion and sinus pressure that simply won't go away, visit your local allergist or immunologist to determine if you might be a new allergy sufferer or dealing with something like bronchitis or sinusitis.

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

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, January 05, 2012
Pile of Leaves Missing Its Winter CoatThis winter has been an odd one for many parts of the U.S. Unlike last year when Atlanta experienced several inches of snow and colder than average temperatures, this past December was punctuated by nearly a weeks worth of temperatures in the 70’s - literally 20 degrees warmer than average! This pattern has not just held true here in the South, but all over the U.S.

Aside from ski resorts having to make more snow than usual, another effect of these warmer than average temperatures is an increase in mold allergies this winter. Normally, cold temperatures and snow stunt mold growth. So in places where rotting fall foliage produces massive amounts of mold spores, snow usually stops the growth and blankets the spores. But with little to no snowfall, mold sources are foregoing their usual pattern of winter hibernation.

While mold is more prevalent, the warmer temps generally mean people are not spending as much time as they normally do indoors. The combination of these two factors has led to many allergists seeing an increase in the number of patients coming in during what are traditionally slower months.

Luckily, there are several effective ways to reduce your likelihood of having to visit the allergist with the best solution being nasal irrigation. It does not matter what type of irrigation that you use (bottle, neti pot, pulsing irrigator) since all will rinse away allergens, like mold spores, that can accumulate in your nasal passages.

By rinsing in the morning and evening you can not only wash away allergens that cause sneezing, watery eyes and other symptoms, but irrigating during the winter months is also a great way to combat the symptoms of low indoor humidity. For an economical solution, try a bottle rinse kit or neti pot. For those looking for a more versatile product with expanded features, the Sinupulse Nasal Irrigator can be a great choice.

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