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Sneezing into spring: how snow mould can affect your health

WATCH ABOVE: As we say goodbye to winter and hello to spring, some are dealing with a snow hangover from snow mould that can easily trigger allergies. Tiffany Lizée explains.

Melting snow in the springtime is a sign of warmer weather to come, but it may be a nuisance for anyone who suffers from allergies.

As the snow recedes, it can reveal mould underneath, which is a common issue in the spring.

Regions with a deep snowpack throughout the winter months, which is often the case across the Prairies, are more likely to see snow mould develop.

READ MORE: What snow mould can do to your body

Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season.
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season. Ken MacGillivray/Submitted
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season.
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season. Ken MacGillivray/Submitted
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season.
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season. Ken MacGillivray/Submitted
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season.
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season. Ken MacGillivray/Submitted
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season.
Snow mould covers the ground in Calgary during the 2018 spring season. Ken MacGillivray/Submitted

What is snow mould?

You may be interested to know that the snow doesn’t actually produce the mould.

It starts in the fall, when outdoor moulds grow on the ground — from wet soil or dead leaves — and then gets trapped under layers of snow.

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During the winter, the ground freezes and that mould becomes dormant.

Then in the springtime, temperatures warm up and melt the snow, which dampens the soil.

This produces ideal conditions for the mould to regrow, sending spores into the air and causing headaches for anyone with allergies.

Cody Coates/Global News
Cody Coates/Global News
Cody Coates/Global News
Cody Coates/Global News

How can I prevent snow mould?

In order to prevent snow mould from growing, you must get ahead of the growing process.

Before snow starts falling, rake up leaves in your yard and cut the grass shorter than normal. This will eliminate breeding grounds for mould.

Unfortunately, once the snow falls and mould is trapped beneath, only a good spring rain can wash it away.

READ MORE: Getting your home and garden ready for winter

Nathan VanDriel rakes leaves with his 16 month old daughter, Lindon.
Nathan VanDriel rakes leaves with his 16 month old daughter, Lindon.

What are allergy symptoms?

If you’re fighting a battle with springtime allergies, snow mould may be a factor — along with other springtime events like blooming trees.

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It can trigger seasonal allergy symptoms, like sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes.

“Symptoms may vary depending on what the person is allergic to and where they live,” said Dr. Harold Kim, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“The person may be allergic to specific pollens and moulds that are released in different areas.”

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READ MORE: Here’s what you need to know about springtime allergies in Canada

How can I ease the symptoms?

If you’re bothered by allergies, Kim recommends you head to the pharmacy instead of locking yourself up inside.

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“We really don’t want patients changing their lifestyle because we can use some very simple and safe medications, if need be, to control their symptoms.”

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  • Over-the-counter-meds: Antihistamines help to tame symptoms, but make sure you’re seeking out options like Reactine, Aerius or Allegra, Fischer said
  • Try to avoid Benadryl or other medications that come with side effects, such as drowsiness
  • Prescription medications: If needed, your doctor or allergist can prescribe eye drops, nasal sprays or other medicines to help alleviate symptoms
  • Allergy shots: Those with severe allergies receive multiple injections – sometimes weekly – to tame their allergies
  • Environmental factors: You can lessen your risk of encountering severe allergies by being mindful of your surroundings. For starters, don’t dry your clothes outside – that could bring in pollen that’ll trigger your symptoms

To stay updated with radar and weather alerts in your area, download the Global News Skytracker weather app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

 

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