Where there isn’t drought, high humidity and rain are hiking up mold counts (and sneezes) in some parts of the country.
By Jaimie Dalessio, Senior Editor
TUESDAY, August 7, 2012 — How well do you know mold? “It’s the fungus among us,” allergist Joseph Leija, MD, says with a chuckle. For 15 years, Dr. Leija has conducted the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official allergy count for the Midwest, on the roof of Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill. “We are exposed constantly to mold.”
But many people think mold only grows between bathroom tiles.
On Monday, Leija recorded a mold count above 125,000 per cubic meter of air — the highest count he’s seen in his tenure. For comparison, a mold count of just 50,000 per cubic meter of air gets an air quality warning. More than a month of 80-plus degree temperatures, high humidity, and a weekend of thunderstorms likely triggered the spike, he says. Tuesday’s count dropped to a less extreme but still higher-than-normal 60,000.
Molds are microscopic fungi that produce spores, which spread through the air. Mold is a year-round problem for allergy sufferers, because it grows both outdoors and indoors. Mold can collect in cool, damp places (like basements and bathrooms) any time of the year. Outside, humid weather can cause high mold concentrations, especially during summer.
Dealing With Mold Allergies
High mold counts mean standard allergy symptoms — such as congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, and watering, itchy eyes — for people sensitive to it. And unlike pollen, which you can see piled up on your car windshield, and dust mites, which you can see everywhere, you might not notice that mold spores floating through the air.
If you test positive for mold allergies, Leija says making sure the air you breathe is clean is the most important thing you can do. He suggests pumping up the air conditioner in the car and in the house, and using dehumidifiers inside to prevent mold from growing.