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Mold Allergy: What it is, and what to do about It

Allergies occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to a harmless substance. This reaction may be a response to environmental allergens, such as pet dander or tree pollen, or proteins in certain foods, such as peanuts and shellfish. One common source of environmental allergies is mold. Let’s talk about what mold is, where you can find it, and how to avoid it.

What is Mold?

Mold is a type of organism known as fungi, which reproduce through seed-like substances, called spores, that spread through the air. People who are allergic to mold usually experience a reaction after inhaling the spores. 

Mold allergens can be found both indoors and outside. Mold growth can occur where there is a significant level of moisture,such as outdoor compost or leaf piles, damp basements, or bathrooms. 

Symptoms of mold allergies are most often seen in late summer and early fall, but the fungi can grow in many different areas throughout the year. Unlike pollen-producing plants, mold and its spores are not necessarily killed off after the first frost of the year. If you or your child has allergy symptoms that do not seem to follow a seasonal pattern, a mold allergy may be the cause.

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Symptoms of Mold Allergy

Symptoms of an allergy to mold spores may resemble other environmental and respiratory allergies. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to mold spore exposure may include:

Symptoms of an allergy to mold spores may resemble other environmental and respiratory allergies. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to mold spore exposure may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy, runny, or itchy nose
  • Itchy, watery, red eyes
  • Dry skin or rash
  • Sore or itchy throat
  • Sinus headache

Mold allergy symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on the person or level of mold exposure. Wet or humid weather may trigger the release or spread of mold spores. Spores also may be released when a mold source is disturbed, such as removing dead vegetation or cleaning a damp room where mold has been growing. 

If you or your child has both asthma and a mold allergy, exposure to mold spores also may lead to an asthma attack. Symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness of chest

Visit your doctor or allergy expert if you are experiencing persistent symptoms of mold allergy.

What is Mold Toxicity?

Mold toxicity, also referred to as mold poisoning or mold sensitivity, a controversial condition associated with exposure to mold contamination. This condition, different from a mold allergy, is not well understood and difficult to diagnose.

Unlike a mold allergy, the symptoms of mold toxicity can be psychological as well as physical, and may resemble other mental or behavioral health symptoms. These include:

  • Variety of physical pain
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive issues
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • Depression

While mold allergies are diagnosed with a skin test or blood test, mold toxicity cannot be diagnosed with any medical test. Researchers are unsure of the specific cause of mold toxicity, although one study by the Medical College of Wisconsin suggests that the cause may be a mold-related toxin, rather than allergen, though this idea needs more research.

How to Prevent Mold Allergy Symptoms and Causes and Reduce Mold Exposure

The best way to prevent mold allergy symptoms is to avoid or minimize your exposure to mold spores. This may include taking precautions both inside and outside. While limiting mold exposure can be difficult, and may require some creativity or changes to your routine, there are many different options you can try.

1) Understand your weather-related mold allergy triggers.

  • Keep a journal or log to learn when your symptoms are worst.
  • Check weather and allergy-tracking apps or websites, such as pollen.com, for humidity and mold counts.
  • Limit your time outside when mold spore counts are highest.

2) Take precautions if you have to spend time outside during high mold counts.

  • Wear a dust mask and gloves for yard work, especially cutting grass, raking leaves, or otherwise disturbing plant matter and damp areas.
  • Immediately change clothes after coming inside; do not leave used clothing or shoes in the bedroom.
  • Shower before going to bed.

3) Reduce the risk of mold growing in and around the home.

  • Change your air filters regularly.
  • Use central air conditioning with a certified allergy filter attachment.
  • Use a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity under 50% to discourage the growth of mold and other fungi.
  • Clean damp areas, such as bathrooms, basements, and laundry rooms, regularly.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and keep other rooms well-ventilated.
  • Have any leaks, from the plumbing to the roof, repaired as soon as possible.
  • Remove garbage from the home promptly and clean indoor trash containers frequently.
  • Do not let papers or damp clothing pile up, as this can encourage mold growth.
  • Clean house gutters regularly and remove dead vegetation from around the foundation.

Treating Mold Allergies

The above tips can help drastically reduce your exposure to mold spores. However, you may find it nearly impossible to completely remove all possible mold allergy triggers.

Mold growth can not only make allergy symptoms worse, but create additional health issues with long-term exposure. If you’ve tried everything to minimize your allergies, and over-the-counter treatments just aren’t doing enough, it may be time to try more long-lasting treatments.

Contact Aspire Allergy & Sinus today to have you or your family members tested for mold allergens and get help finding the best treatment option for you.

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