Definition

What is Mold allergy?

Molds are tiny fungi whose spores float through the air. They like damp environments and need four things to grow:  food, air, appropriate temperature and water. Molds can be found outdoors, in homes and in other buildings.

Everyone breathes in mold spores in the air, but some people have an allergic reaction or asthma symptoms if exposed to too much of this fungus. This condition is referred to as Mold allergy.

If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. A mold allergy can make you cough, make your eyes itch and cause other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms.

How common is Mold allergy?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Mold allergy?

Mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis caused by mold allergy can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Dry, scaly skin

Mold allergy symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. You may have year-round symptoms or symptoms that flare up only during certain times of the year. You may notice symptoms when the weather is damp or when you’re in indoor or outdoor spaces that have high concentrations of mold.

Mold allergy and asthma

If you have a mold allergy and asthma, your asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores. In some people, exposure to certain molds can cause a severe asthma attack. Signs and symptoms of asthma include:

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following: stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath, wheezing or other bothersome symptoms that persist.

If you or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Mold allergy?

Like any allergy, mold allergy symptoms are triggered by an overly sensitive immune system response. When you inhale tiny, airborne mold spores, your body recognizes them as foreign invaders and develops allergy-causing antibodies to fight them.

After the exposure has passed, you still produce antibodies that “remember” this invader so that any later contact with the mold causes your immune system to react. This reaction triggers the release of substances such as histamine, which cause mold allergy symptoms.

Molds are very common both inside and outside. There are many types, but only certain kinds of mold cause allergies. The most common allergy-causing molds include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Penicillium.

Being allergic to one type of mold doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be allergic to another.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Mold allergy?

There are many risk factors for Mold allergy, such as:

  • Having a family history of allergies. If allergies and asthma run in your family, you’re more likely to develop a mold allergy.
  • Working in an occupation that exposes you to mold. Occupations where mold exposure may be high include farming, dairy work, logging, baking, millwork, carpentry, greenhouse work, winemaking and furniture repair.
  • Living in a house with high humidity. If your indoor humidity is higher than 50 percent, you may have increased exposure to mold in your home.
    Mold can grow virtually anywhere if the conditions are right — in basements, behind walls in framing, on soap-coated grout and other damp surfaces, in carpet pads, and in the carpet itself. Exposure to high levels of household mold may trigger mold allergy symptoms.
  • Working or living in a building that’s been exposed to excess moisture. Examples include leaky pipes, water seepage during rainstorms and flood damage. At some point, nearly every building has some kind of excessive moisture. This moisture can allow mold to flourish.
  • Living in a house with poor ventilation. Tight window and door seals may trap moisture indoors and prevent proper ventilation, creating ideal conditions for mold growth. Damp areas — such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements — are most vulnerable.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Mold allergy diagnosed?

Besides considering your signs and symptoms, your doctor may want to conduct a physical examination to identify or exclude other medical problems. He or she may also recommend one or more tests to see if you have an allergy that can be identified. These include:

  • Skin prick test. This test uses diluted amounts of common or suspected allergens, such as molds found in the local area. During the test, these substances are applied to the skin in your arm or back with tiny punctures. If you’re allergic, you develop a raised bump (hive) at the test location on your skin.
  • Blood test. A blood test, sometimes called the radioallergosorbent test, can measure your immune system’s response to mold by measuring the amount of certain antibodies in your bloodstream known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a medical laboratory, where it can be tested for evidence of sensitivity to specific types of mold.

How is Mold allergy treated?

The best treatment for any allergy is to take steps to avoid exposure to your triggers. However, molds are common, and you can’t completely avoid them. While there’s no sure way to cure allergic rhinitis caused by a mold allergy, a number of medications can ease your symptoms. These include:

Nasal corticosteroids. These nasal sprays help prevent and treat the inflammation caused by an upper respiratory mold allergy. For many people, they’re the most effective allergy medications, and they’re often the first medication prescribed.

Examples include ciclesonide (Omnaris), fluticasone (Flonase), mometasone (Nasonex), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) and budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua). Nosebleeds and nasal dryness are the most common side effects of these medications, which are generally safe for long-term use.

Antihistamines. These medications can help with itching, sneezing and runny nose. They work by blocking histamine, an inflammatory chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction.

Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines include loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra) and cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy). They cause little to no drowsiness or dry mouth. Older antihistamines such as clemastine (Tavist-1) work as well but can make you drowsy, affect work and school performance, and cause dry mouth.

The nasal sprays azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) and olopatadine (Patanase) are available by prescription. Side effects of the nasal sprays may include a bitter taste in your mouth and nasal dryness.

Oral decongestants. OTC oral decongestants include Sudafed and Drixoral. Because oral decongestants can raise blood pressure, avoid them if you have high blood pressure (hypertension). Possible side effects include high blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, heart pounding (palpitations), anxiety and restlessness.

Decongestant nasal sprays. These include oxymetazoline (Afrin, others). Don’t use these medications for more than three or four days, as they can cause congestion to come back with even worse symptoms when you stop using them. Other possible side effects include headache, insomnia and nervousness.

Montelukast. Montelukast (Singulair) is a tablet taken to block the action of leukotrienes — immune system chemicals that cause allergy symptoms such as excess mucus. It has proved effective in treating allergic asthma, and it’s also effective in treating mold allergy.

Like antihistamines, this medication is not as effective as inhaled corticosteroids. It’s often used when nasal sprays cannot be tolerated or when mild asthma is present.

Other treatments for mold allergy include:

Immunotherapy. This treatment — a series of allergy shots — can be very effective for some allergies, such as hay fever. Allergy shots are used for only certain types of mold allergy.

Nasal lavage. To help with irritating nasal symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you rinse your nose daily with salt water. Use a specially designed squeeze bottle, such as the one included in saline kits (Sinus Rinse, others), bulb syringe or neti pot to irrigate your nasal passages. This home remedy, called nasal lavage, can help keep your nose free of irritants.

Use water that’s distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to make up the irrigation solution. Also be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Mold allergy?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent with Mold allergy:

  • Eliminate sources of dampness in basements, such as pipe leaks or groundwater seepage.
  • Use a dehumidifier in any area of your home that smells musty or damp. Keep your humidity levels below 50 percent. Remember to clean the collection bucket and condensation coils regularly.
  • Use an air conditioner, and consider installing central air conditioning with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter attachment. The HEPA filter can trap mold spores from outdoor air before they’re circulated inside your home.
  • Change filters on your furnace and air conditioners regularly. Have forced air heating ducts inspected and, if necessary, cleaned.
  • Be sure all bathrooms are properly ventilated, and run the ventilation fan during a shower or bath and immediately after to dry the air. If you don’t have a ventilation fan, open a window or door while you’re showering or bathing.
  • Don’t carpet bathrooms and basements.
  • Promote groundwater drainage away from your house by removing leaves and vegetation from around the foundation and cleaning out rain gutters frequently.
  • Keep organic plant containers clean and dry, such as those made of straw, wicker or hemp.
  • Toss or recycle old books and newspapers. If left in damp places, such as basements, they can quickly become moldy.
  • Sleep with your windows closed to keep out outdoor mold. The concentration of airborne mold spores tends to be greatest at night, when the weather is cool and damp.
  • Wear a dust mask over your nose and mouth to keep mold spores out if you have to rake leaves, mow your lawn or work around compost.
  • Avoid going outdoors at certain times, such as immediately after a rainstorm, in foggy or damp weather, or when the published mold count is high.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: February 9, 2018 | Last Modified: February 9, 2018

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