Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

When we think of mold we think of basements or old, damp, rags that are left in the garage or workshop. Many children have done school experiments with white bread or oranges and are pleasantly surprised by the green and blue molds that are produced. Even in the refrigerator mold can be found. The smell is very distinct.

Some people know the minute they walk into a home that mold is present. We may not see it, but our nose knows! Mold is ubiquitous in our environment. It is a type of fungus and there are thousands of known varieties of molds. In nature, molds promote decay and rot and work to decompose organic matter. Molds need adequate humidity and temperature for optimal growth. Mold spores can breed in standing water. Mold collects on fallen leaves. Piles of bark mulch, leaves and grass clipping are a perfect place for mold to flourish. Some people need to use caution when raking leaves or when doing extended amounts of yard work as this can stir allergens into the air.

People can be sensitive or allergic to molds. Diagnosing a mold allergy is very difficult because mold can affect the body in a variety of different ways. Coughing, wheezing, sinus problems and post-nasal drip are common symptoms, but some individuals may develop headaches, itchy rash or joint pain, memory problems and sudden changes in mood/behavior, depression, anger and aggression.

A recent journal article stated that toxins from mold that were found growing on nuts or corn can weaken the immune system. This in turn makes the body more susceptible to respiratory diseases and can exacerbate existing ones.

Even though mold is everywhere you can still takes measures to protect yourself, both outdoors and inside your home:

1. Wear a mask when raking leaves or working in the yard.

2. Changes your clothes after working outside as mold, and pollens, can adhere to clothing.

3. Take off your shoes before entering your home.

4. Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Such items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from your home.

5. To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with vinegar and water.
6. Use a dehumidifier if you live in a damp part of the world. It helps reduce indoor mold growth.
7. Remove carpet from home as the carpet and padding are perfect breeding grounds for mold spores, especially if the carpet has ever been steam cleaned.
8. Keep windows closed during humid or damp days. This just invites mold into the home.

These helpful tips can keep you and your family safer and lower the risk of reacting to mold.