12 Tips for Beating Winter Mold Allergies
Mold can thrive in the wet winter months, a time when we tend to keep windows and doors closed and stay indoors more. This can be especially troublesome for anyone who has mold allergies.
Mold problems can happen to anyone, even if you think your home is safe. I learned this the hard way years ago when our Mid-Atlantic home, which had HEPA filters, a dry basement, and super insulation, developed a mold problem in the attic.
My home office was immediately under the problem area, and I developed nasal congestion, coughing, and itchy throat before we realized the problem existed and had it remediated. Fortunately I never experienced the other symptoms of mold allergies, which can include headache, rashes, memory problems, depression, and runny nose, and even neurological problems in more serious cases.
The following tips can apply to fall and winter mold allergies as well as those other times of the year. However, given the fact that our homes and businesses are typically more closed up during the colder times of the year, mold allergies can be particularly bothersome.
Look up. If you have an attic, mold can be having a holiday up there. Check your attic for mold and wear a mask when you do. If you find mold, you might use one of the natural remedies discussed in this article or, if the invasion is more extensive, call in experts to eliminate it for you.
Watch where you shop. We tend to increase the amount of shopping we do in the fall and winter, especially holiday shopping, so be aware that some businesses and stores are more likely to be havens for mold and mold spores than others. You may want to wear a dust mask when going into antique stores, thrift shops, florists, greenhouses and garden centers, and indoor farmers markets.
Be aware of moisture. Various places throughout your home can breed mold if they are allowed to stay damp, especially bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. Use the exhaust fan in your bathroom and kitchen. Wipe down the walls in the shower after use, check the moisture controls in your refrigerator, and never leave wet laundry in the washer.
Protect yourself against outside mold. Wet autumn leaves, dying plants, and fallen branches and tree trunks on the ground are perfect environments for mold. If you are doing yard cleanup or walking in wooded areas, wear a mask and shower when you get home to remove mold spores.
Dehumidify. The humidity level in your home or office should be less than 60 percent to discourage mold formation. If you don’t have a dehumidifier as part of your furnace and/or air conditioning units, then you may want to add one or purchase one or more stand-alone dehumidifiers to place around the house.
Check your cellar. Basements are notorious for mold and moisture, and it can sneak up on you. My parents had a cellar that they converted to a family room, complete with linoleum flooring (a good choice because it doesn’t absorb moisture) but they also had to keep a dehumidifier running. Avoid using carpeting, area rugs, or upholstered furniture in basements.
Use HEPA filters. These filters can trap mold spores and prevent them from circulating throughout your home or office.
Monitor your storage items. Around holiday season, people remove the boxes of seasonal decorating items, holiday linens, and other goodies from storage. Mold and mildew could have been brewing over the past ten or so months. Wear a mask when unboxing these items and check them for mold. Keep such items in air-tight containers from year to year.
Know the numbers. The National Allergy Bureau keeps daily tabs on the mold and pollen counts around the United States. You can check the website or ask for email alerts. You can know when mold counts are high so you can gauge how much time you spend outdoors.
Remove mold naturally. Here are three nontoxic, natural ways to help prevent mold as well as kill and remove it in your home on most surfaces. Vinegar is the least expensive and is very effective, but all three work well. As a preventive measure, regularly spritz mold-prone areas in your bathroom and kitchen with the vinegar and water mixture.
- Vinegar and baking soda. Use straight white vinegar applied with a spray bottle or cloth to the affected areas. Scrub and dry. Then spray on a mixture of ½ teaspoon baking soda and 8 ounces of water. Scrub and dry. This double-fisted approach also helps keep mold from returning.
- Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Mix one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide in 8 ounces of water and apply to affected areas using a spray bottle or cloth. Let the mixture stay on the area for about 10 minutes. Scrub and wipe with more hydrogen peroxide. Then spray on the baking soda and water mixture as above. Scrub and dry.
- Tea tree oil. Combine 10 drops of tea tree essential oil in 8 ounces of water. Apply to the affected area with a spray bottle or cloth. Let the mixture stay on the area overnight. Scrub the area and spray again, leaving it on for several hours. Wipe the area with the baking soda mixture to finish.