Can Trigger Sinus and Bronchial Symptoms
Low-pollen time in Chicago runs from July to mid-August, allowing most allergy sufferers a chance to recover before hay fever season, but mold counts are less predictable and can vary greatly each day. Certain dry molds, like Alternaria species, can be extremely high in the late summer, and have been linked to sudden attacks of sinus and bronchial symptoms.
To avoid the summer mold, keep it outside. Molds can survive for years indoors. Unlike the wet molds such as black-green fuzzies on food, murky water, rotting leaves or bathroom tiles, the summer molds become problematic on hot, dry, windy days and can travel for miles. They behave like pollen, becoming airborne, and are easily inhaled. Installing a HEPA air purifier and keeping the windows closed on high mold count days will help. Also, maintaining an indoor humidity between 35 and 45 percent will keep most molds, wet and dry, away. Carpeting can greatly increase indoor mold counts, so consider removing it or upgrade the vacuum cleaner to include HEPA technology for better allergen removal.
Symptoms can also vary from day to day, because mold allergies, on top of other classic symptom triggers such as weather change, illness, exercise and stress, are additive. These factors fill a symbolic “bucket of tolerance” that at some point will overflow to the point of misery. Some people have a small bucket, so only a few triggers will set them off, while others have a larger bucket that can handle more. Knowing a person’s triggers and appreciating the size of their bucket is the key to staying ahead of the game.
The bucket analogy also helps explain why allergy medications may seem ineffective at times. Rest assured that they are still doing their best, but it is likely that the bucket is overflowing and the medications have become, well… a drop in the bucket! It could also mean that an allergy is not the problem. To figure it out, consider seeing a board-certified allergist to identify relevant triggers and strategies to manage them. It may even allow a reduction in the amount of medications used overall. Another way to reduce medication reliance is to undergo immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, for three to five years. This time-tested method has been around for more than a century, and it is well covered by most insurance plans. Allergy shots do not cure, but they do work to increase the size of the bucket for many years to come.
Lisa Sullivan, M.D., specializes in allergy, asthma and immunology for all ages and ailments. For more information, visit LisaSullivanMD.com.