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Mushroom spore count is 16 times higher than normal, thanks to monsoon. Coming up: lots of mold
SHERYL KORNMAN Tucson Citizen
Got some extra sniffles and wonder why? It could be the mushroom spores.
The tiny airborne allergen's numbers have exploded here because of the heavy monsoon.
"Mushrooms are growing everywhere - in lawns, in dirt and inside people's homes," said Mark Sneller, a Tucson microbiologist and air quality expert.
The mushroom spore count in the Tucson area yesterday was 6,300, or 16 times the usual 200 to 400 spores per cubic meter of air.
Soon mold production will get under way, especially in humid, tightly-packed closets during the rainy season and inside homes with evaporative coolers, Sneller said.
And in another couple of weeks, Bermuda grass, careless weed, fall ragweed and Russian thistle will be dumping pollen at rates high enough "to be clinically significant," he said.
Airborne allergens react with the mucous membrane of the nose and respiratory system. The body releases histamine in response to the irritants, which is why antihistamines are used to counteract the resulting congestion and runny noses.
Sneller said that if enough water gets underneath a house, "you'll wake up one morning and see a row of mushrooms in your bedroom, I promise."
"Once it stops raining, we'll still see lots of mushroom spores for another month," he said.
After the heavy rains, the universal molds alterneria and cladosporium will grow here in "incredible quantities," Sneller said.
He predicts "a big spike in those allergens" once the airborne spores start moving around.
Sneller points out that during the summer monsoon, "whatever happens outside happens inside, but without the same intensity."
Mushroom spores and mold spores can enter a home or business through its evaporative cooler.
He recommends that people who live with evaporative coolers keep windows partly open.
If windows are kept open, "a lot of that (spore growth) is blown out," Sneller said.
He also says people with evaporative coolers should change the cooler pads regularly and avoid painting interiors with water-based paint now.
When pads get saturated and worn out, water droplets rather than a mist come into the house and encourage the growth of even more mold, he said.
If the pads are not working properly, "humidity goes way up," Sneller said.
"And if humidity is 70 percent or more, you now have a runaway mold problem."
When the mold spore count goes up, bacterial growth also increases inside a home, he said.
With the bacterial growth comes flulike symptoms from the toxic byproducts of the bacterial growth.
TIPS FOR ALLERGY SUFFERERS
Unpack closets where clothes are jammed in tightly. Keep air circulating between clothing items. Green mold - penicillium - will grow on leather belts, vests, jackets and shoes. Take the moldy items outside and wipe them down with a wet cloth.
Fix a leaky roof. Additional moisture adds to mold growth.
Don't jog outside. "Jogging is not necessarily helpful" when mold is high, said Mark Sneller, a Tucson microbiologist and air quality expert.
"It's common sense not to get too emotionally involved in life when challenged with allergens. Reducing stress and tension are key," Sneller said.
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Quote: "Mushrooms are growing everywhere - in lawns, in dirt and inside people's homes," said Mark Sneller, a Tucson microbiologist and air quality expert.
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