Austin Mold and Airborne Allergies

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In my view, ALL allergy symptoms begin as reactions to airborne allergens. In almost every case I see, there is an initial history of the most common of all allergy symptoms… nose congestion and/or eye irritation. Pollen and mold are the two most common allergens in the air. Some people react to chemicals in the air, but these are a small minority compared to the vast number of people who react to pollen and mold.

The most common reactions to airborne allergens include stuffy nose, red or irritated eyes, throat irritation, and cough. These occur FIRST, and usually seasonally, when allergic reactions begin. Most people will realize what they are reacting to because there are clearly defined SEASONS when the most common and the most powerful pollens occur.

Fall, for example, is RAGWEED season. So, if you get a stuffy nose and a low-grade fever (up to 100 degrees) during August or September, you are probably having an allergy attack. If this occurs in December or January, you are getting “Cedar Fever” (at least in Central Texas you are). If your symptoms occur every spring, you are reacting to trees or early grasses. In summer, it’s the grass pollen. You can tell it’s allergies because viruses generally last FIVE DAYS, induce a fever MUCH higher than allergy fever, and the mucus from a cold (virus) explodes forward (think of boxes and boxes of Kleenex for a bright red, drippy nose). Allergy mucus drains down the throat, not out the front. There is much throat clearing (harumph, harumph, etc.). It goes on FOREVER (several weeks or the length of the pollen season).

There is often a low-grade fever of up to 100 degrees. Symptoms are often worse at night and many will find themselves “soaking” their bedclothes or pillows during the night. The fever connected with allergy has been described for three centuries and has many popular names. The two most common are “Hay Fever” and “Cedar Fever.” Most people first experience allergy symptomsduring one season. As the years go by, they experience symptoms in two seasons. Eventually the person will become so sensitive that they will react ALL year round. Then, they decide that it’s time to call the allergist!

Probably even more common than pollen allergy is mold allergy. While pollen affects people seasonally, mold affects us every night with little regard to seasons. Pollen is released during the hottest part of the day so that the thermals can carry the pollen far and wide. Mold goes off during the night. (A process called “sporulation” as opposed to pollen’s “pollenation.”) Mold cannot tolerate sunlight so the most efficient mold will sporulate at the darkest time of the night. The highest mold counts occur in our homes around 2:00 AM when spores begin to blow out of our air-conditioning systems and spread throughout the house. Like most of us, I first react with swelling in my mucus membrane (my nose stops up), followed by the release of my emergency allergy hormone… ADRENALIN. Many of us, who are sensitive to mold, will find ourselves waking up about 3:00 AM, wondering why we are awake. It’s the Adrenalin. I head to the bathroom. Then I realize that THAT wasn’t enough to wake me up. Then I realize that I cannot breathe out of one side of my nose. That is what mold typically does to us. The symptoms you get when you first go to bed, the symptoms you have during the night, and the symptoms that persist into the morning when you first get up, are caused by MOLDS. I will cover these two allergens separately, although the measures used to cope with them are almost identical. Molds The most successful allergy and asthma patients are the ones who recognize their triggers and avoid them. Considerable evidence suggests that allergy and asthma are caused, at least in some part, by molds. If no other triggers have been identified, or if you are controlling known triggers and still have problems, consider molds, even if your allergist found no sensitivity to molds. Common airborne molds are the most often tested for, and the most difficult, because they cannot be controlled. The usual recommended treatment is to stay in a well-filtered air-conditioned, dry location. However, there are thousands of mold species, far too many to be included in standard allergy testing. My own research (published in the Annals of Allergy, November and December, l979, and January, l980) indicated that most of the molds found in patients’ homes were mutants. We cannot test for all the mutations. And less common molds are often not tested for, and can be highly allergenic. All molds have a need for something to grow on, a nutrient. The dust in your air conditioning system will work fine.

Most molds have in common the need for moderate to high humidity and temperature just about like you would like it… seventy to eighty degrees will be fine, thank you very much.

Mold needs dark. You never see mold growing on bright, sun-lit surfaces.

Mold also likes:

  • Dampness. Had any leaks lately? Ever?
  • Dusty or musty papers, cardboard, carpet, upholstered furniture and bedding.
  • Damp wood, such as house framing wet from rain during construction, or for that matter, before the construction even began. Use kiln-dried lumber if you are building.
  • Air-conditioner insulation, coils, and drain pans, even in furnaces and automobiles. Poor filters can even grow mold. Leaks anywhere in the system are sure-fire mold growers.
  • Drain pans under frost free refrigerators. Clogged drain pans in air systems frequently result in leaks into walls and adjacent areas.

Deadly Molds: Stachybotyrs In l998, in Hamilton County, Ohio, the Springdale Best Western (formerly Hilton) reported many guests had become ill. Stachybotyrs atra growth behind the wallpaper was determined to be the cause. In Cleveland Ohio, in winter, 1998, a Stachybotyrs overgrowth resulted in the hospitalization of more than 30 people and deaths of six.

Austin, Texas (the “Allergy Capital of the World”) has recently seen a new home abandoned when the family reported severe symptoms from the Stachybotyrs mold. In February 2000, an entire Elementary School was closed and all the students transferred when an overgrowth of Stachybotyrs atra mold was identified growing throughout the area.

While this is scary stuff, it is NOT your ordinary mold problem in your home, car, or workplace. For almost every conceivable mold problem there is a CHEAP and EFFECTIVE way to GET RID OF MOLD. (Read Killing Molds article.)

Side Benefits of Mold Control

Controlling indoor molds in homes, workplaces, schools, and any other gathering places may provide health bonuses for non-allergy sufferers as well. Nearly all antibiotics were first isolated from molds. The benefit to humans leads us to forget that these chemicals are toxins, toxic in this case to microorganisms. Other mycotoxins are toxic to humans, leading to conditions such as aspergillosis or histoplasmosis.

Also, chronic exposure shows that many are immunosuppressants of varying potency (the transplant anti-rejection drug cyclosporine was found in a mold). The mold Aspergillus flavus produces aflatoxin, the most potent carcinogen known, linked strongly to certain types of liver and biliary tract cancers. Other mycotoxins have been demonstrated to cause cancer in animals and humans.

Allergies and Your Car Researchers have for several years recognized that many people have allergies in their cars, commonly asthma, sinus problems, drippy nose, or headaches. Leaky windows or doors, often the result of aged weather stripping, may allow wetness of carpet of upholstery, contributing to mold growth. If this is in the back seat, the driver may never notice. This can be helped to some extent by applying silicone conditioner to weather stripping, followed by spraying a disinfectant such as Lysol on the moldy carpet or upholstery after it dries completely.

Illness is often related to mold or other organisms growing in the air-conditioning system. It may occur in cars that are only a year old. It is often in the evaporator coils or the drain pan, but it can also be in the ducts themselves or in the sound dampening foam used at part connections.

To help, some automakers, such as Ford and Honda, began installing filters to prevent ventilation system contamination. Avoid AC-MAX, which circulates unfiltered passenger compartment air back into the AC unit, defeating the purpose of the filter. Filters only last so long before mold spores penetrate and grow on the inside face of the filter. If you begin having problems, probably after 10-12 months of use, change this filter. Look in your owner’s manual under “cabin air filter” or “passenger compartment air filter,” or call your dealer’s service department.

You can also use an OZONE GENERATOR to kill all of the mold and to eliminate odors and chemical fumes in your car.

House Plants While SELDOM A PROBLEM, house plants are an excellent breeding ground for molds. Molds are necessary for plant life. Other molds can harm plants and contribute to root rot, and others exist in soil in symbiotic relationships to aid in the growth of the plant. Because molds often grow well only on specific plants, some healthy houseplants can cause severe allergies, and others cause none.

Wherever there is plant life there is mold. An increase in allergy symptoms is often noticed just after watering plants. Be particularly leery of “sick” plants (that is, plants with black or white growth on or around them or a bad odor about them). Usually, house plants are NOT a serious contributor to the symptoms of my patients. I don’t think I have had to deal with that five times in the last twenty years. Controlling Mold

There are at least three ways to deal with mold spores.

1. Air Filters

This is the cheapest method. A 3M Ultra Allergen Filtrete 1250 filter is so effective it will filter particles the size of mold and even filter the particles a great deal smaller such as bacteria. The price is right too! A 20″ x 20″ filter costs about $18 at most home supply stores (Home Depot, Builder’s Square, etc.). They say they last 90 days but I replace mine every 30 days when I am having symptoms.

You also need a 20″ x 20″ box fan which can be found in the same stores for about the same price ($14). Simply tape one of the 3M Ultra Allergen Filtrete 1250 filters on the intake side of the box fan and run the fan on “high,” with the duct CLOSED and the door shut, in your bedroom, when you are gone during the day. At night, place the filter and fan in the bedroom doorway and run it on “low” speed. This will bring in cooled or heated air but it will all have to pass through your filter first.

They will work in a central system too and I have them in the various sizes of my units. I have to replace them every month because they are SO EFFECTIVE they fill with debris very quickly and begin to “whistle” with increased air resistance. Since the filter is quite dense it will dramatically slow the flow of air through any system. Step 2. Mold LightThe filters are quite effective but if you live in a high mold area such as I do then the filter by itself simply cannot keep up with the reproductive rate of the mold. Remember how a colony of molds can organize and grow SO FAST that a 6″ tall mushroom can grow up from the ground organizing millions of cells from midnight to sun-up.

A form of “Birth Control” for mold is available in the form of an inexpensive mold light. You may have seen this type light in the comb box at the Barber’s Shop. It has been used for years to “kill” bacteria, which it does fairly effectively. It doesn’t “kill” mold spores but it is about 100% effective at rendering STERILE any spores that drift by the light in the air currents in your home.

These lights are available from many suppliers or you can order the smallest and least expensive one (which is all you need for any size air system) from our online Health and Wellness Store. They are quite inexpensive, usually under $100. And one light is plenty for any closed system. (How big of an atom bomb do you need to kill a gnat?)

Step 3. Ozone…100% MOLD KILL

The BEST or MOST EFFECTIVE way to get rid of mold, where it lives…is the OZONE GENERATOR.

Ozone gas penetrates the carpet, the upholstered furniture, under the floor boards, between the walls, throughout the a/c ductwork. IT GOES EVERYWHERE. Wherever it goes it KILLS the Momma and Poppa mold spores. This is the best way to finish mold problems. Coupled with the filters AND the mold light, this should pretty well eliminate any mold problems in your home.

Ozone Generators are available through many allergy resource catalogs and publications. A good one I use is Adirondack’s Home Unit. They cost a lot! ($500.00) But, they are a FINAL SOLUTION. It can be found in our online wellness store.

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References:

1. Annals of Allergy, Volume 43, Number 4, p225-228, 1979, “Incidence of fungal spores at the homes of allergic patients in an agricultural community. I. A 12-month study in and out of doors.” M.R. Sneller, Ph.d., and R.R. Roby, M.D.

2. Annals of Allergy, Volume 43, Number 5, p286-288, 1979. “Incidence of fungal spores at the homes of allergic patients in an agricultural community. II. Correlations of skin tests with mold frequency.” R.R. Roby, M.D., and M.R. Sneller, Ph.d

3. Annals of Allergy, Volume 43, Number 6, p352-355, 1979, “Incidence of fungal spores at the homes of allergic patients in an agricultural comunity. III. Associations with local crops.” M.R. Sneller, Ph.d., R.R. Roby, MD. and L.M. Thurmond, B.S.

4. Journal of Industrial Microbiology, May 1996 “Fungal colonization of fiberglass insulation in the air distribution system of a multi-story office building”, DG Ahearn, SA Crow, RB Simmons, et.al.

5. HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF FUNGI IN INDOOR ENVIRONMENTS – AN OVERVIEW, edited by R.A.Samson,B. Flannigan, M.E. Flannigan et.al. Pubished by Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam. Copyright 1994. ISBN 0-444-81997-5.

6. Expert Panel Report- Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Asthma, from the Nathional Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

7. Reversing Asthma, by Richard N. Firshein, DO. Copyright 1998, Time-Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-67363-3.

Internet web sites for:

1. American Lung Association.

2.University of Minnesota Department of Environmental Health and Safety

3. Georgia Tech

4. Environmental Protection Agency

5. University of Wisconsin

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http://onlineallergycenter.com/mold_airborne_allergies.php