When we think of allergy season, spring allergies usually come to mind — especially if you’re allergic to tree pollen.
Yet, other seasons produce other allergens, too. Both summer and autumn are prime-time seasons for ragweed, mold and fungus allergies. If you suffer from symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, itching (and more) from June through November, fungus or mold may be the cause.
Discover six ways to treat and prevent fungus allergies when allergy season strikes.
Fungus and mold are two very similar organisms — but they aren’t exactly the same. The biggest difference between fungus and mold is that mold is multicellular and fungus can be either multicellular or unicellular. The structure of the fungus’s cellular wall may also differ from that of mold's.
Multicellular molds fungi are considered mold.
Fungus and mold often grow in similar conditions, including wet and damp weather. You’ll often find these two allergens growing side-by-side, and many patients allergic to one may also be allergic to the other. Common examples of fungi may include mushrooms and yeast.
While fungus and mold allergies aren't the same, they share some similarities.
Penicillin is a type of mold, but people allergic to penicillin aren’t necessarily also allergic to mold and fungus.
If you want to know if you’re allergic to fungus or mold and penicillin, you must take two separate allergy tests — one for mold and fungus and one for penicillin. In some cases, allergy tests may test for both at the same time; just because you’re allergic to one, doesn’t mean you’re allergic to the other.
These days, penicillin is created synthetically and doesn’t actually contain mold spores. Penicillin differs from the fungus allergen penicillium that we will learn about in a moment.
There are four main types of fungus allergens, including alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium.
Alternaria is mostly considered an outdoor allergen, as it’s found in plant soil. Some researchers believe that it may also contribute to indoor allergies if potted plants are kept indoors.
Aspergillus is a fungus that may lead to swelling in the respiratory system, including the airway and lungs.
This allergen is found both indoors and outdoors and when airborne it may lead to both allergies as well as a condition called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA).
Cladosporium is an indoor and outdoor allergen that grows in moist and humid conditions, especially near leaky plumbing and humid rooms, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Penicillium is most likely found in decayed organic matter, including food, produce and wood. It’s also found in wet or moist areas with low air circulation.
Fungus (especially mold) can grow in pretty much any damp or humid climate. The most common causes of fungus allergies include seasonal factors (such as humid or damp weather conditions) and environments that trap moisture.
If you suffer from fungus allergies, you may want to avoid some of the following environments and conditions — or at least take allergy medications before exposure.
Fungus grows rampant in damp and warm environments. (But that doesn’t mean it can’t grow in other conditions, too!)
Some of the most common spots for mold growth in the yard and around the home include areas where moisture and humidity may become trapped. Some of the most common spots may include compost and rubbish bins (and also recycling bins in some cases), leaf piles and hot tubs.
If the fixtures outside of your home are old, you may want to consider updating or replacing them, as ill-fitted and older fixtures may also be a magnet for mold, too.
Thanks to damp and humid conditions in the summer and fall, fungus and mold are also considered seasonal allergens in addition to environmental ones.
Late summer and early fall especially are prime times for fungal growth. Leaves fall in the autumn and trap moisture between layers of organic material. If you’re allergic to fungus, you may want to avoid heavily wooded areas, leaf piles, grass piles or clusters of other organic material.
If you notice your fungus allergy symptoms worsen in the late summer and autumn, damp and humid conditions may be to blame. You may want to try some preventative measures to mitigate symptoms and find relief.
Fungus allergens may cause symptoms any time of year, making this seasonal allergy an environmental, too.
If you’re suffering from fungus allergies in the winter and spring, the source of the mold and fungus may be living right in your own home or office. Some of the most common areas where fungal colonies grow include damp or humid spaces.
Do you start coughing, wheezing or sneezing every time you head downstairs to the basement? If you’re allergic to fungus or mold, your allergy symptoms may be caused by colonies growing in damp or humid areas — such as your basement.
If you live in an old home, your basement may not be protected from moisture. You may want to check the humidity in your basement using a digital thermometer, barometer or another device that detects humidity.
Basements that double as storage areas may trap moisture or organic material inside boxes or bags (especially bags and boxes of clothes or papers).
We often forget that flower pots may be a source of allergens if we’re not allergic to pollen! Yet, flower pots contain organic material — other than just flowers or plants.
When watering plants indoors, water can pool in soil or pots or even on furniture or the carpet below the plants. All this moisture can build up, and areas around plants may become breeding grounds for mold spores.
Keep plants away from soft materials, such as carpeting, sofas and drapes; this may help to avoid mold growth in these areas. Wipe up any spills around plants, and check for mold growth in potting soil.
Rooms that are more likely to be humid include the kitchen and bathrooms (or any room where a large amount of water is used).
When water is splashed or sits still outside of the sink, toilet or tub, it may cause mold, fungus and bacterial growth. Humidity may also permeate soft fabrics, such as fabric shower curtains, towels and mats — and also encourage mold growth.
Make sure to clean up any water spillage and turn on a fan when humidity levels rise (especially during and after a long, hot shower).
Soft fabrics, such as carpeting, textiles and furniture may also attract fungus growth.
Since these types of fabrics are more absorbent than harder surfaces, they’re more likely to become breeding grounds for mold and fungus.
After washing such fabrics, allow them to completely dry in the dryer or air dry them in an area of the home with good circulation. Try to avoid line drying fabrics outside, as your clothing and textiles may attract and trap pollen and other outdoor allergens.
If liquid or food spills on soft fabrics, clean up the spills with a fabric-safe cleaner to prevent bacteria or fungus growth or build-up.
Fungus allergies share similar symptoms to other environmental and seasonal allergies. The most common symptoms of fungus allergies include:
If you suffer from other respiratory conditions (such as asthma) or skin conditions (such as dermatitis), your allergy symptoms may be more intense, and you may experience allergic reactions more frequently.
Symptoms of fungus allergies may worsen in the summer and fall when fungus colonies are most likely to grow.
All allergies may be worsened by certain risk factors. Whether you struggle with respiratory illnesses or conditions or live in a city, you may want to take a few extra measures to ensure your allergy symptoms don’t worsen.
Asthma is a major risk factor for allergies, people that suffer from asthma are more likely to suffer from allergy symptoms. Asthma can also increase the severity of allergy symptoms and increase the likelihood of an allergy attack.
Other factors that may affect allergies include air quality and pollution levels.
If you live in a large city with high pollution and low air quality levels, your allergy symptoms may be worse than if you lived in a rural area. Los Angeles and NYC allergies may be worse than allergies in other parts of the country that deal with lower pollution levels.
Combine that with other risk factors such as asthma? Anyone living in a large city that also suffers from asthma may want to take extra precautions before heading outside for the day — especially during allergy seasons.
If you know you suffer from mold and fungus allergies, you may want to get an apartment tested before signing that lease.
It isn’t easy to determine on your own if you’re allergic to fungus. This is because fungus allergies share symptoms with several other allergies and conditions. The only way to find out if you’re allergic to fungus is to get tested for fungus allergies.
There are several ways to do this. The three main types of allergy tests available are scratch tests, blood tests and at-home tests.
Scratchy tests may be performed in a doctor’s or allergist’s office. A medical professional inserts small amounts of allergens underneath the skin with needles and monitors the skin for symptoms, such as redness, swelling and itching.
These tests are very effective at diagnosing allergies, but they’re not for everyone.
If you suffer from contact dermatitis, a skin scratch test may exacerbate your condition. If you have any needle-related phobias, these tests may feel unbearable.
In these cases, you may simply want to get a referral for a blood draw at a local testing clinic, or you may be eligible to take an at-home allergy test.
Curex’s at-home allergy test is safe and accurate. Simply order the kit, follow the instructions to take a small drop of blood with a lancet, mail your sample to the lab and get your results online. Get tested for more than two dozen allergies, including mold and fungus allergies.
Allergies are harder to treat after symptoms arise. The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid the source of allergens altogether.
Since fungus is both an environmental and seasonal allergy, you may want to take steps to remove colonies and spores from your home — as well as prevent outdoor symptoms by avoiding the places where the fungus is most likely to breed.
One extremely effective way to prevent fungus allergies is to avoid fungus altogether (which is easier said than done). Since fungus can grow in a wide variety of environments (both indoor and outdoor), it may not be so easy to avoid it — especially if you don’t know the source of the colony.
Staying indoors isn’t the easiest feat, and doing so may mean missing out on some of your favorite activities, such as hiking, apple picking and hayrides.
But since mold is most likely to grow during the summer and fall, there’s a higher chance of allergy symptom flare-ups during these seasons.
If it’s not possible to avoid the outdoors altogether, you may simply want to avoid some of the spots where fungus and mold are most likely to grow, including rubbish bins, leaf and compost piles and areas where still water is most likely to pool.
If it’s your job to mow or rake the lawn (or perform other lawn-related duties), ask for help — especially the days after heavy rainfall. Since fungus and mold grow best in damp conditions, there’s a higher likelihood that you may kick up allergens.
To avoid fungus, don’t do outdoor chores on damp days. Or, simply ask for help.
Mold and fungus love to grow underneath and between layers of damp leaves. Raking may disturb the fungus, and spores could become airborne. Mowing the lawn may also pull fungus out of the grass and distribute spores throughout the air.
If avoiding lawn chores isn’t an option, wear protective clothing, such as gloves, goggles and a face mask to mitigate the risk of fungus exposure. Remove your clothes and gear upon entering the house and take a shower to prevent tracking fungus on carpets and furniture.
Old buildings may also attract mold if they haven’t been properly updated or maintained. While you may not be able to avoid visiting a friend that lives in an old home, you may want to avoid structures that are more likely to cause serious symptoms.
Buildings that haven’t been properly insulated or ventilated are more likely to attract mold. Poorly insulated structures may not keep out moisture, and humidity and water can’t evaporate as easily in poorly ventilated ones.
Steer clear of sheds, old basements and other hotspots for fungus.
Since fungus grows in poorly ventilated structures where humidity and moisture are more likely to get trapped, airflow is the natural enemy of this allergen.
Even if you can’t prevent humid conditions in your bathroom or kitchen, you may be able to prevent mold and fungus growth by encouraging airflow.
Install a fan in areas of your home that are more prone to humidity (such as the bathroom). The fan may help dry the room and encourage water to evaporate. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers may also help pull moisture from the air, further preventing fungus and mold growth.
If fungus colonies have already been disturbed, spores may already be floating in the air or settling on your furniture — especially soft fabrics, such as carpets, couches and drapes.
HEPA-certified products may help filter mold, fungus, pollen and other allergens from the air. You can find HEPA filters for fans, HVAC systems and air conditioners. You can even buy HEPA filters for your vacuum to ensure fungus doesn’t seep from the dirt cup and back into the air.
If still or leaking water is a problem in your home, you may want to find the source of the water and fix it. Sometimes faulty plumbing may cause leaking, and fixing these issues may help prevent more fungus from growing.
To find the source of your leaking or still water, you may want to find your fungus colony first. Contact a mold and fungus removal service to find the fungus and determine the source. Fungus removers may be able to both find the source of the fungus and remove it; to prevent further growth, you’ll want to call a plumber or contractor to patch up any leaking plumbing (or faulty insulation), too.
Mop up spills and puddles right away. A spill here and there shouldn’t create too much chaos in the fungus department, but it’s important to clean up liquids right away.
Liquids that pool underneath carpeting, tiling, linoleum, fabrics and other surfaces may become trapped between the floor and the covering — especially if the airflow is limited. Cleaning up liquids before they drip between surfaces is key in preventing both fungus and mold.
Fungus and mold may also grow in wet fabrics or carpeting, so it’s also important to clean these surfaces with fabric-safe cleaners to kill bacteria and prevent colonies from forming.
If you can’t change your environment (or avoid it altogether), you may want to check out over-the-counter and prescription medications. These medications have been proven effective in preventing environmental and seasonal allergy symptoms.
The most common types of medication include oral antihistamines, antihistamine nasal sprays and eye drops, steroid nasal sprays and saline sprays and drops.
Both antihistamines and steroids are effective and have limited side effects in smaller doses. Yet, using them on a regular basis may result in increased side effects, including drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues and dry mouth.
Another method to combat the symptoms of environmental and seasonal allergies, such as fungus, mold, pet dander and pollen, is immunotherapy.
Allergy immunotherapy introduces a small amount of an allergen to the system in scheduled doses. The amount of allergen is so small, the body won’t overreact — but the immune system should build a tolerance to the allergen.
There are two types of allergy immunotherapy; subcutaneous immunotherapy (administered by injection) and sublingual immunotherapy (administered orally).
Most Americans are more familiar with subcutaneous immunotherapy than sublingual immunotherapy, as allergy shots have been widely available for decades (though immunotherapy itself has been used for over 100 years).
Allergens are introduced to the system via injection, and several allergies may be treated at once. Subcutaneous immunotherapy is considered safe and effective, though side effects may occur in patients with higher risks or a history of anaphylaxis.
The most common side effects are redness and swelling near the injection site. There is also a possibility of anaphylaxis. This is why patients may be required to remain under supervision for up to 45 minutes after the injection.
Sublingual immunotherapy isn’t as widely recognized as allergy shots in the U.S. Instead of an injection, patients may self-administer this type of immunotherapy orally (usually underneath the tongue).
This type of immunotherapy is more widely used in Europe. It has been proven safe and effective, and there may be less chance of side effects with sublingual immunotherapy than with subcutaneous immunotherapy. For this reason, patients may self-administer therapy themselves at home and without doctor supervision.
Curex’s at-home immunotherapy treatments are sent directly to your home. Under the care of a medical professional, you’ll get detailed instructions on administering doses (which must be taken daily).
Most patients start to see a reduction in symptoms in as little as six months; some patients are even able to stop taking over-the-counter medications as symptoms subside — and some may not need other allergy medication at all after six months to up to three years of immunotherapy.
Find out if at-home allergy immunotherapy is right for you by contacting a Curex care manager.