Weather & Natural Disasters

Unusually warm weather triggers mold allergies

Not everyone appreciates unseasonably warm temperatures this December. People with allergies are actually suffering because of them.

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Dr. Purvi Parikh of Allergy and Asthma Associates in New York, has seen about 20 to 30 percent more patients experiencing mold allergies due to the recent warm spell.

"A lot more people are coming into my office with symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and rashes," said Parikh. "Some people are very sensitive to mold."

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Parikh attributes the mold to a rise in humidity that enables the mold spores to proliferate. The dry air in the winter months typically suppresses mold, because fungal spores need food and water to grow. This time of year, mold spores are typically not as prevalent as they are in the summer months, since mold can't grow in freezing temperatures.

It may be tempting for many people experiencing warmer-than-normal conditions to open a window and let in fresh air, but that may not be a good idea for allergy sufferers: The warmth, humidity and spores can enter with it.

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However, it's not all bad news for people who are experiencing summer allergies in winter.

"For indoor mold issues, effective air purifiers like HEPA can help remove mold spores from the air," said Parikh. "If your allergies get really bad, there are appropriate medications people can take to alleviate the symptoms."

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers filter air by forcing it through a fine mesh, removing harmful particles like mold, dust mites, and pollen. But even air purifiers can't prevent all the effects of ongoing weather patterns.

"Climate change in general has been making the environment more allergic," said Parikh. "The warm weather also makes the pollen season longer. If you already have a mold allergy or a dust mite allergy, the pollen season is now extended, causing those allergies to overlap."