Coping with allergies after Irene

September 6, 2011 3:05:10 PM PDT
Hurricane Irene is still causing trouble for New York area residents. One is the result of the dampness and flooding that are still persistent in some homes.

The standing water and dampness are a setup for the growth of mold and dust mites. People with allergies to these agents, and to the ragweed that's still around, may be hit with severe allergic reactions, which were also seen during Hurricane Katrina.

Dana Conti went to the allergist's office today. She's allergic to ragweed, dust and mold. Irene's wrath filled the family basement with water and mold.

"We helped them clean up, and later on that night when I was in bed I got a rash all over my body and had asthma that I haven't had in years," Conti said.

Hurricane Katrina, with its extensive flooding, gave a name to Dana's problem.

"After Katrina we saw thousands of people with respiratory syndrome after the flooding and they labeled it Katrina cough syndrome as a result of molds, standing water and flooding," Dr. Clifford Bassett of Allergy Asthma Care said.

Irene caused the problem for allergic patients again last week and this week, with rain, flooding and high humidity - a set up for dust mites and mold growth.

"What I noticed right away was black mold in the laundry room on the walls," Debbie Rapoport said.

Debbie lives close to the ocean on long island. Her basement flooded.

"So when I go downstairs, I get tight chest, runny eyes, etc and I start having a massive allergy attack," she said.

And ragweed grows like crazy with all the ground water.

Just as there is treatment for allergies, there are solutions to the moisture problem.

First, turn on the room air conditioner. That will dry out the air, as will a separate room dehumidifier.

Hygrometers can help you follow your home's humidity.

A particle mask and hepa air filters can prevent allergic triggers from getting to your nose.

"Just because you don't smell or see mold, it doesn't mean it's not there. If it's been wet for two or three days, you've got mold," Dr. Bassett said.

It's important to clean or throw out moldy carpet and drywall that became wet from flooding or simply continued humidity. Those with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients are at greatest risk of health problems related to dampness.