colorful leaves with mold spores peaking out

Love Those Beautiful Fall Leaves? They May Be Hiding Mold!

Fall is my favorite time of year. By the time September rolls around, I am so over the heat and humidity of summer. I love seeing the colorful leaves on the ground and hearing them crunch under my feet. When I was a kid, one of my favorite fall activities was jumping into the big pile of leaves my dad had just finished raking.

Hidden mold in the environment

As fun as that was, I couldn't do that today, thanks to my allergies. This time of year, our yards, parks, and trails are full of mold hiding on the ground. Mold grows on and under fallen leaves, pine needles, rotting logs, and other dead plant material like tree trimmings. It's also peak ragweed season in the fall, so those with allergies can get a double whammy of triggers and symptoms.1

Mold spores eat outside organic plant matter. When leaves, pine needles, and other yard waste pile up, moisture accumulates underneath them, making them the perfect home for mold to live and multiply. When you move a pile of wet leaves, you may see a white substance on the ground. That can be a mold colony.

Mold is a common allergen

When the fallen leaves and other outdoor plant materials are disturbed by wind, raking, or picking them up, the mold spores get into the air. They are so small you cannot see them with your eyes, and they can lodge deep into your nose, throat, or lungs. When this happens, you may experience allergy or asthma symptoms.

What are symptoms of mold allergy?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, mold allergy symptoms can include:1

  • Itchy eyes, nose, and/or throat
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy and/or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Mucus and postnasal drip
  • Allergic asthma symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness

How can you avoid mold and ragweed?

Although mold and ragweed seem to be everywhere, there are some ways to help reduce your contact with these allergens.

Plan your day

You can check the pollen and mold counts in your area. Smartphone apps, television weather reports, and other websites can provide a pollen forecast. Taking your allergy and asthma medications as directed will help if pollen levels are at a peak. Pollen levels peak in the morning during the fall, so try to schedule outdoor activities later in the day.

Adjust your behaviors

If possible, have someone without allergies do yard work for you. If you are outside, wear gloves when touching any fallen leaves, pine needles, or debris, and try to keep them away from your face. An N95 mask can also reduce the number of allergens you're exposed to.

Don't allow dead plant material to pile up outside. If you have asthma triggered by allergies, keep your quick-relief inhaler with you when outdoors.

Manage your indoor environment

To control your indoor environment, keep your home and car windows closed. Dry and windy days can cause mold spores to get airborne and reach peak levels. Some other things you can do include:

  • Take off your shoes when inside.
  • Take a shower or bath, wash your hair, and change your clothes after being outdoors.
  • Consider using a nasal rinse.
  • Wipe pets down with pet wipes before they come inside. Bathe them regularly to remove pollen and yard waste.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum and dust with a damp or microfiber cloth at least once weekly.

How do you manage pollen and mold allergies during the fall season? Please comment below!

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