Mold Allergy

1 What is Mold Allergy?

Mold allergy is caused when the immune system overreacts to the airborne spores of mold and other fungus. Most of us breathe in mold spores present in the air, but some people are extra sensitive to these spores and respond in the form of an allergic reaction.

Itching nose and eyes, watering of eyes, sneezing, coughing, and swelling under the eyes are some of the symptoms of mold allergy. Molds are found both inside and outside. It may grow in places like basement or under the cabinet where the conditions like temperature and humidity are favorable for their growth. They may also be found outdoors under the dead leaves or in a grass field.

Reducing or avoiding exposure to these molds are the best ways to prevent symptoms of allergic reaction.

Medications help to alleviate the symptoms of mold allergy. 

2 Symptoms

Some of the common mild symptoms of mold allergy include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itching
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Dry, scaly skin

Symptoms of mold allergy due to exposure to indoor molds are present year round, while those due to outdoor molds are seasonal in appearance. The symptoms often vary from person to person. In some people the allergic reaction is mild and soon comes under control. In some people inhalation of spores may result in asthma. This may cause sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and tightness in chest.

3 Causes

Allergic reaction to mold spores is caused by an over-reactive immune system. The immune system considers mold spores as foreign, harmful substance, and triggers the production of antibodies against these allergens. On further exposure to mold spores, the antibodies activate the production of histamines, chemicals that lead to the production of symptoms.

Of the different types of molds found indoors and outdoors, only some of them elicit an allergic response.

Alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium, and penicillium are the common molds that cause allergies. Allergic reaction to outdoor mold spores are seasonal, usually seen in summer and fall. Symptoms of indoor molds may be seen all year round.

Having a family history and increased exposure to mold increase the chance of getting mold allergy. Being in a place with high humidity and poor ventilation are major risk factors for mold allergy.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Besides considering your signs and symptoms, your doctor may want to conduct a physical examination to diagnose mold allergy. The timing of appearance of symptoms also reveals the possibility of allergic reaction to mold. Skin prick test and blood test are also used in confirmatory diagnosis of this allergy.

  • Skin prick test – in this test a small quantity of allergen extract is placed on the palm. The skin at this region is then pricked with a probe, allowing the extract to get into the skin. Positive allergy test will show the formation of small, reddish bumps at the region of prick.
  • Blood test – levels of antibodies in the blood help to assess the response of immune system to allergen.

5 Treatment

The best treatment for mold allergy is to take steps to avoid exposure to your triggers. But, molds are very common inside and outside the house, and hence one cannot completely avoid them.

  • Nasal corticosteroids are used to control inflammation of the nasal cavities which result in upper respiratory symptoms. Ciclesonide, fluticasone, mometasone, triamcinolone, budesonide are commonly used in controlling the symptoms.
  • Antihistamines block the action of histamines, the chemicals responsible for the production of symptoms. Loratadine, fexofenadine and cetirizine are commonly used antihistamines.
  • Decongestants, as the name indicates, are used to reduce congestion in the nose. They are available as oral tablets or nasal sprays.
  • Montelukast blocks the action of leukotrienes, chemicals that cause symptoms of allergy. It is recommended when nasal sprays are not effective in controlling the symptoms.
  • Allergy shots are given to desensitize the body against the allergen. This prevents an allergic reaction when the body is exposed to the allergy-causing substance later.
  • Nasal lavage is a method used to remove irritants from the nasal cavities.

6 Prevention

Limiting exposure to molds is the best way to prevent mold allergy.

Growth of molds can be reduced by using a dehumidifier and air conditioner with high-efficiency particulate air filtrate.

One can avoid using carpets in basement, which will provide a conducive environment for the growth of mold.

Use good ventilation in bathrooms to avoid too much humidity. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Herbal supplements, butterbur, and allium cepa are the suggested homeopathic remedies for reducing the symptoms of mold allergy. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Best way to cope with mold allergy is to have the medications always at reach.

Avoiding foggy and damp weather helps to limit the exposure to molds.

Dust masks are effective in controlling inhalation of mold spores.

Sleeping with windows closed keeps off outdoor molds.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several complications associated with mold allergy.

Mold allergy may result in asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, and fungal sinusitis