AUSTIN, Texas — While the rain is certainly welcomed in our historically drought-ridden area, it comes at a price for some.
That price is a rise in mold for allergy sufferers.
Today's count? Brace yourself: 19,882.
- 0 - 299 Light
- 300 - 999 Medium
- 1,000 - 9,999 High
- >10,000 Very High
Where do we get those numbers and what do they mean? Well, we don't measure mold instantaneously like we measure the temperature or wind. In other words, we can't get a reading by merely sticking a mold counter out the window for a few seconds!
We actually have to "collect" the molds over a 24-hour period. When you watch our allergy information or look at the count on the web, look at the bottom of the screen. We always show you the date for when the 24-hour collection ends so you can know exactly what day the count was collected. A trained allergist then counts -- by hand -- the number of spores found under the microscope.
So to put that number in perspective, chief meteorologist Burton Fitzsimmons reports it's the highest count in Austin since at least July 11, 2012, when we hit 27,262. He says it also appears to be the second highest mold count in our documented history since we began recording in December of 2009.
What is a mold allergy?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, molds live everywhere.
Mold and mildew are fungi that comes from plants or animals. The “seeds,” called spores, travel through the air. Some spores spread in dry, windy weather. Others spread with the fog or dew when humidity is high — hence the increase when it’s especially rainy.
Inhaling the spores causes allergic reactions in some. Allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to early fall. But fungi grow in many places, both indoors and outside, so allergic reactions can occur year round.
Molds grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, in compost piles and on grass and grains. Unlike pollens, molds do not die with the first frost. Most outdoor molds become inactive during the winter. In the spring they grow on plants killed by the cold. Indoors, fungi grow in damp areas and can often be found in bathrooms, kitchens or basements.
What are the symptoms of a mold allergy?
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies, such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion and dry, scaling skin.
Outdoor molds may cause allergy symptoms in summer and fall (or year-round in some climates)
Indoor molds may cause allergy symptoms year-round
Mold spores get into your nose and cause common allergy symptoms. They also can reach the lungs and trigger asthma.
How do doctors diagnose a mold allergy?
To diagnose an allergy to mold, the doctor will assess your medical history. If they suspect a mold allergy, skin tests or blood tests can pinpoint which are causing irritation.
Reduce Exposure to Outside Spores
- Limit your outdoor activities when mold counts are high. This will lessen the amount of mold spores you inhale and your symptoms.
- Wear a dust mask when cutting grass, digging around plants, picking up leaves and disturbing other plant materials.
Reduce Exposure to Indoor Spores
- Central air conditioning with a HEPA filter attachment: These special filters help by trapping mold spores from your entire home. Standalone air cleaners only filter air in a limited area.
- Lower indoor humidity. AAFA says air cleaners will not help if excess moisture remains. If indoor humidity is above 50 percent, they say, fungi will thrive. A hygrometer is a tool used to measure humidity. Technology such as the Nest thermostat has a meter built in. The goal is to keep humidity below 45 percent, but below 35 percent is better.
How do I treat mold allergies?
Using antihistamines and nasal steroids as you would with other allergies is the recommendation. If you have allergic asthma, talk to your doctor about which medicines may be best for you. You might also be a candidate for allergy shots.