Mold allergies are caused by mold spores. Mold is everywhere. It grows best in moist dark spaces such as basements or piles of fall leaves, or it can grow on our food, and it reproduces by shedding large numbers of mold spores into the air. When these mold spores settle onto organic matter, new mold starts to grow.
We might breathe mold spores in through the air or even inadvertently eat food with mold growing on it. We are all exposed to mold on a daily basis and for most of us, the effects of that exposure go completely unnoticed. However, people with mold allergies might have a reaction if exposed to too much of it.
Symptoms of mold allergies
Mold allergies can make you feel quite miserable. The list of symptoms is long. Symptoms of a mold allergy are similar to allergic reactions to many other substances and include wheezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, rash or hives, coughing or sneezing headaches and difficulty breathing.
In some people mold allergy can cause or worsen an asthma attack, causing restricted breathing. Mold is also a possible cause of allergic rhinitis or hay fever, which is an inflammation and irritation of nasal passages with symptoms resembling a chronic common cold.
Testing for mold allergies
If you’re not sure whether you have a mold allergy or not, you can ask your doctor for allergy testing with skin testing or blood tests. Skin testing is the oldest and most reliable test for allergy. The test begins with light scratches on the surface of your skin with a needle, and then application of a drop of the allergen to the break in your skin.
If you’re allergic to the substance, your skin should show a positive reaction by getting a red, raised itchy bump similar to a mosquito bite. These bumps are then compared to two controls: usually a histamine and salt water or saline substance. Everyone should show a reaction to the histamine, while no one should show a reaction to the saline solution.
If you do have an allergy to mold, you may find that your symptoms worsen when there are increased mold spores in the air. The peak season in cold climates is July to October, but mold spores are still found in the air from late winter right through to the next late fall or early winter. In warmer climates mold is in the air all year but peaks between late summer and early fall.
Avoiding an allergy attack
The best way to avoid a mold-related allergy attack is to reduce your exposure to mold. While you will never completely eliminate your exposure to mold, you can reduce exposure with the following tips.
Prevent outdoor mold from coming indoors by closing windows and using air conditioning equipped with allergy-reducing air filters. Use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in your home, and fix any source of moisture, which would allow mold to grow. Use HEPA filters on vacuum cleaners and remove indoor house plants.
If you do find mold in your home, you should take appropriate steps to identify and remove it as soon as you can. And, if possible, if anyone in your home has a mold allergy, have him or her temporarily stay somewhere else while you’re cleaning the affected areas.
The Allergy Relief Center