The Washington Post

Mold hits highest September level in ten year record Thursday

On Thursday, the count for mold spores in Washington, D.C. rose to 47,483 spores per cubic meter of air. That concentration was the highest in the U.S. Army Centralized Allergen Extract Lab’s ten year record for September according to Susan Kosisky, a microbiologist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center lab.

Mold spore counts have been abnormally high for the entirety of September, historically Washington’s moldiest month. Through the first three weeks, counts were about 75% above average.

Graph illustrates the above average mold spore concentrations in Washington, D.C. during 2011 (green line). Graph does not include (most current) last week of September 2011. Concentrations also spiked in June 2009, at the end of one of the wettest springs on record. (Susan Kosisky/Walter Reed Army Medical Center)

This year with clouds and plenty of moisture around for a period of several weeks, the average daily counts for each week in September have sky-rocketed. Mushrooms abound in front lawns, fields, mulched areas and woods releasing millions of basidiospores, one of the most prevalent groups of spores observed this time of year.

Parts of the weekend may be damp and until the area experiences frost, mold levels may remain high.

The Asthma and Allery Foundation of America recommends taking the following three steps to control your exposure to mold:

* Avoid contact with the spores. Wear a dust mask when cutting grass, digging around plants, picking up leaves and disturbing other plant materials. Reduce the humidity indoors to prevent fungi from growing. These measures will reduce symptoms.

* Take medications for nasal or other allergic symptoms. Antihistamines and decongestants are available over the counter—without a prescription. Because these antihistamines can cause drowsiness, they are best taken at bedtime. If drowsiness continues to be a problem, talk to your doctor about taking non-sedating antihistamines, which require a prescription. For moderate and severe allergy symptoms, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays.

* If these medications are inadequate , talk to your doctor or allergist about taking allergy shots (immunotherapy). This works for some carefully selected patients.

WebMD and NIH also have information about mold allergies and tips for limiting your exposure.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.

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