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How to treat and reduce irritation from mould allergies

Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 8:00 AM - Breathing a sigh of relief that seasonal allergies will soon be a distant memory? The first frost is around the corner and ragweed and its misery-inducing pollen will die off – hallelujah!

But hold on. Don’t get too excited! While weeds are the top allergy offender in the fall, mould is another pesky culprit and the spores can haunt you year round. Countless Canadians experience year-round sneezing and nose-blowing, regardless of when pollen season ends – that’s because dust and mould spores are everywhere and there is no escape.

Outdoor mould growth usually peaks in late summer to early fall when there is an abundance of dead and dying vegetation such as fallen leaves, rotting wood, and vegetation. Then they hibernate in the winter. But indoor moulds are alive and making people unwell year round. Coming into contact with even the slightest amount of mould can trigger an allergy response.

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“Anyone with a tendency to allergy and who already is manifesting this through allergic rhinitis and asthma is at risk of developing allergy to mould, especially if exposure is high,” says Dr. Susan Waserman, professor in the Division of Allergy/Clinical Immunology at McMaster University in Hamilton. Mould spores are easily inhaled and a quite significant trigger for asthma.

While minimizing your exposure to those allergens is critical, agree experts, it’s important to figure out what allergy meds work to help alleviate symptoms like nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes.

To diminish symptoms of allergic rhinitis, use antihistamines and intranasal steroids, suggests Waserman. “Asthma can occur as well and needs assessment and treatment.

See an allergist to help specific diagnosis through testing and to help direct treatment.”

Nasal steroid sprays are considered the most effective treatment. “They work against all allergy symptoms including nasal congestion. Two nasal steroid sprays are now available over the counter - Flonase Allergy Relief and Nasacort. These are the same as was by prescription so obtaining optimal treatment is now easier!”

Nasal sprays must be used correctly to obtain the best results: point the spray away from midline bridge of the nose, stresses Waserman. If they are not used correctly, they can cause dryness and nasal bleeding.

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Long acting, non-drowsy antihistamines are recommended by health professionals and are another allergy-fighting must have. “Many good ones are available in the pharmacy, without a prescription, but two new ones by prescription are Blexten (Bilastine) and Rupall (Rupatidine),” says Waserman.

Antihistamines are better for treating symptoms such as itchy, runny nose, and itchy, runny eyes, but are less effective for nasal stuffiness, she says. “They be used daily during allergy season if needed but it is best to start taking antihistamines before the allergy season begins.”

Expect to use the typical allergy treatments – antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops and controller asthma puffers – for longer periods of time if you have mould allergies than if you were battling pollen allergies, adds Dr. David Fischer, president of Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI).

Meanwhile, reducing indoor mould exposure involves a combination of air filtration, lowering indoor air humidity, and reducing other moisture sources, says Fischer. Air filtration can be achieved by using a HEPA air filter that traps mould spores.

“Controlling humidity can be achieved by proper ventilation such as turning on an exhaust fan when cooking or showering, using a dehumidifier or air conditioner during humid weather, and keeping the home clean and dry whenever there is a spill.”

Minimizing indoor moisture sources is also important, adds Fischer, such as not over watering plants, avoid hanging laundry indoors, taking garbage out regularly, and making sure there are no leaks in the roof, foundation, or plumbing.

Keep windows closed in outdoor mould season and use AC. Be sure to clean up any visible mould. Large areas must be done by a mould removal specialist. Pay special attention to laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and basements.

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