Weather patterns influence environmental allergies. Hurricanes can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms because pollen and mold spores are aerosolized after severe weather. The high winds spread wet mold spores into the air. A lack of air conditioning due to lost power allows, even more, allergens to enter the home.
Debris from trees and plants also become laden with mold and other triggers that can heighten allergic and asthmatic symptoms. Allergic reactions to mold include nasal congestion, coughing, and sneezing. Asthmatics can experience wheezing, tightness in the chest, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Hurricane Harvey drenched Texas and Louisiana with more than 50 inches of rain, and Irma dumped 16 inches in Florida. The moisture left behind in homes and other buildings becomes a breeding ground for mold. Irma brought the allergy season on a little earlier. Allergy season usually peaks when the leaves begin to fall in October and November, but the damage caused by the successive hurricanes left many trees on the ground and a lot of mold from standing water.
How To Manage Your Allergy or Asthma Symptoms After a Hurricane:
- If you are sensitive to allergies, are asthmatic or suffer from other breathing problems, do not enter a building with mold damage.
- Wash your hands frequently. Illness can trigger an asthma attack and keeping your hands clean prevents the spread of germs. Use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if clean water is unavailable.
- Keep windows closed tightly because outdoor allergens may aggravate symptoms.
- Reduce outdoor allergens from entering your home by setting the do not re-circulate mode on your air conditioner.
- Change your home air conditioner and furnace filters often to improve air quality by cleaning allergens.
- Use a dehumidifier and a hygrometer. A dehumidifier can lower the humidity levels in your home preventing mildew growth and reduce dust mites. The hygrometer should read below 50% to avoid additional mold growth.
- Use an air purifying system to help filter dust and other allergens.
- Be careful when using a generator because if they are misused, they can cause carbon monoxide to build up in the home. Install a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.
- Consider using a certified professional cleaning service to help eliminate allergens.
- Have your allergy and asthma medications on hand, and use them as prescribed. Your rescue inhaler should always be within reach.
- Manage stress because strong emotions can trigger an asthma attack.
- Get a flu shot because influenza can also trigger an attack.
- Establish a plan of action in case you experience an attack.