Allergies are a condition in which the immune system overreacts when it is exposed to specific allergic triggers. In the case of mold allergies, allergic triggers are mold spores. When small, airborne mold spores are inhaled by mold-allergic individuals. The body identifies the spores as harmful foreign bodies. In response, an allergic reaction starts and the body releases histamine, the chemical that is responsible for the unpleasant symptoms you begin to experience.
Mold is found both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor molds usually cause allergy symptoms in summer and fall, while indoor molds may cause symptoms year-round. There are many types of mold, but only certain kinds cause allergies – the most common of these are alternaria, cladosporium, aspergillus, and penicillium. Some mold spores can spread in dry, windy areas. Others spread when the humidity is high.
After the first exposure, antibodies continue to recognize mold as a trespasser, so any further contact with the mold will cause the immune system to respond with further allergic reactions. There are some allergic conditions that are caused by mold. If you experience these conditions, you may be allergic to mold and should seek treatment immediately.
Allergic Conditions Caused by Mold
- Asthma – shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cough
- Allergic fungal sinusitis – when fungus begins to grow in the sinuses
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis – a fungal infection in the lungs that may occur in people who also suffer from asthma
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – a rare inflammation of the lungs caused by exposure to airborne mold spores or dust.
Mold Allergy Symptoms
- Nasal congestion
- Post-nasal drip
- Watery eyes
- Itchy eyes, nose, or throat
Symptoms of a mold allergy are the same as in other types of upper respiratory allergic reactions. Mold allergy symptoms differ from one person to the next and can be mild or severe, causing asthma attacks. They can be year-round or erupt only at particular times of the year. Symptoms may be worse with damp weather or in places that have high levels of mold spores.
Risk Factors for Mold Allergies
Several risk factors can lead to the development of a mold allergy or aggravate symptoms you are currently experiencing:
Familyhistory of allergies and/or asthma
- Being exposed to mold while you are at work (working outdoors in moist environments, working with plants, or even baking and furniture repair)
- Living or working in a building where mold can thrive
Humidityof 60% or more
- Leaky pipes or water damage
- Poor ventilation in damp areas, like basements and bathrooms
Mold Allergy Diagnosis
To properly diagnose an allergy to mold, a physical examination will be performed and a full medical history will be taken by one of our board-certified allergists. It is also likely that you will need allergy skin prick testing. This test uses diluted amounts of allergens that are applied to the skin with tiny punctures. If you are allergic, you will have a localized allergic reaction and a raised bump (hive) will develop on your skin.
Skin prick testing is the most common method of allergy testing. It takes less than 20 minutes for results to show. You will experience some itching during the test while the allergens are reacting, but it will subside shortly. Your allergist will monitor you for more severe symptoms that may arise.
This test is not recommended for those with ongoing skin conditions, such as eczema. In this case, an allergist may use an allergy blood test to diagnose a mold allergy. Blood tests measure immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that your immune system develops in reaction to a specific allergen. They are usually accurate but take longer to deliver results.
Mold Allergy Treatment
If you have a mold allergy, your first step should be to decrease or eliminate your exposure to mold to minimize your allergic reactions. NY Allergy & Sinus Centers has tips on how to prevent mold growth.
- Use mold-resistant drywall
- Use a dehumidifier in damp rooms
- Dry wet areas in your home immediately
- Get rid of leaves around your home in the fall. Leaves are the perfect setting for mold growth.
- Wear a mask when doing yard work
It’s not always possible to keep away from mold allergy triggers, so allergy medications may be recommended by your allergist to help reduce or eliminate your symptoms. Antihistamines are effective in treating symptoms related to allergic rhinitis. You can buy them over the counter or get prescription brands.
Since mold allergies are closely related to asthma, you will need an inhaled corticosteroid prescribed by your doctor. This inhaler should be carried with you at all times to prevent an asthma attack.
Mold Allergy Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Be Allergic to Mold?
If you experience sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, or asthma symptoms around mold, you can be allergic to it. Visit an allergist for an allergy test to diagnose your mold allergy.
Can Mold Grow on Carpet?
Mold can grow anywhere in the right condition. Most damp areas are perfect for mold to grow. You can prevent some mold growth by keeping your home dry.
How Is Mold Allergy Diagnosed?
Mold allergy is diagnosed by an allergist. They will use either a skin prick test or a blood test. In some cases, an allergist will use a pulmonary function test to asses your breathing to see if your asthma is flared by mold.
If I Have a Mold Allergy, Will I Also Have a Penicillin Allergy?
Although penicillin was made from mold, it doesn’t mean you can’t have the medicine. Modern-day penicillin antibiotics do not contain mold particles. However, always consult with your doctor before taking any new medications.
What Foods Should I Avoid If I Have A Mold Allergy?
If you are allergic to mold, you should avoid certain cheeses, mushrooms, vinegar, sour cream, and yeast rolls. To determine which foods are safe to consume, visit a food allergy specialist.
Why Are People Allergic to Mold?
Mold can get inside the nose and lungs, causing an allergic reaction. People who suffer from asthma and seasonal allergies are more at risk of developing a mold allergy.
Will Mold Exposure Symptoms Go Away?
Symptoms of mold exposure will usually go away after you are no longer exposed to the mold. However, mold exposure can have long-lasting effects. It’s important to avoid mold if you are allergic.
If you need help with your mold allergies, the NYC allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers would like to help. We provide testing and treatment to control your allergies, asthma, and sinus problems. Book your appointment at one of our six locations for convenient and quick relief. Call us today at (212) 686-4448.