Allergy Symptoms? There Might be Hidden Mold in Your Home
Mold isn't just an outdoor problem or a symptom of a leak, and it could be causing your allergies. Find out where to look to keep your house clean
Ah-choo! If you find yourself continuing to struggle with allergies this fall, with symptoms like congestion and itchy eyes even after pollen levels drop, it's mold-not pollen-that may be to blame. About one in four allergy sufferers, or 10 percent of all people, are also sensitive to fungi (that'd be mold spores), according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. And unlike pollen, which mostly remains outside (aside from what you and your pet bring indoors on your clothes and fur), it's easy for mold to grow indoors. While you may already stay on top of high-risk areas (namely, places that are damp and dark, like your basement), fungi can thrive in three spaces you may not expect.
In Your Dishwasher
You'd think a cleaning appliance would be fungi-free, but no such luck. Mold was found on the rubber seals of 62 percent of tested dishwashers, according to a study of 189 machines from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. And 56 percent of the washers contained at least one species of black yeast, which is known to be toxic to humans. (Eek!) To stay safe, leave the dishwasher door ajar after a cycle to ensure it completely dries out, or wipe down the seal with a dry cloth before shutting it. Also smart: avoiding putting dishes away when they're still damp from the rinse cycle, especially if you use the flatware infrequently.
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In Herbal Meds
When researchers analyzed 30 samples of plants that are used medicinally, like licorice root, they found mold on 90 percent of the samples, according to a report in Fungal Biology. Additionally, 70 percent had fungi levels exceeding what's considered the "acceptable" limit, and 31 percent of the molds identified had the potential to be harmful to humans. And since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate the sale of medicinal plants, as of now there's no surefire way to avoid the moldy meds.
On Your Toothbrush
Okay, file this one under gross! Hollow-head electric toothbrushes may retain up to 3,000 times the bacterial and mold growth as solid-head options, according to a study from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, so choose solid-head options when possible. (They're not labeled as such, but you can distinguish by examining the head itself. Solid options will have a small space to attach to the body of the brush, but will otherwise be mostly one piece.) Also, avoid using airtight toothbrush covers, which causes the bristles to stay damp for longer, encouraging mold growth.