October 2021

Mold Allergies

Summer and autumn are prime-time for mold allergies

Mold allergies are allergic reactions to a type of fungi that grow in a multicellular hyphae structure (which is a fancy way of saying their growth habits aren’t singular celled).

Mold may grow both indoors or outdoors, though many mold allergy sufferers experience more severe symptoms indoors, where airflow is more likely to stagnate — especially in winter when doors are closed and fans aren’t circulating.

As with other allergens, mold may cause uncomfortable symptoms that may range from a mild cough to shortness of breath and complications with other respiratory issues.

Mold Causes

Mold is an environmental allergen, meaning it can grow anytime, anywhere — regardless of the season. Yet, cold and wet weather conditions encourage mold growth, so this allergen thrives in the late summer and throughout the fall, making it a seasonal allergy in addition to an environmental one.

Environmental Mold Allergies

Environmental mold allergies are allergic reactions that result from non-seasonal mold growth.

Since mold grows in any damp place, it can spread throughout basements, attics, crawl spaces, bathrooms, sheds and even between walls. Mold spores may become airborne if they’re disturbed.

When mold becomes airborne, it can be inhaled and cause respiratory issues, including asthma and allergy attacks, wheezing, sore throat, coughing and inflammation.

Mold can be especially dangerous indoors because there may be less air circulation than outdoors. Spores may become trapped in small spaces and even float the air and land on surfaces throughout the home.

Environmental mold allergies (especially ones inside the home) may worsen in the colder months, as airflow stagnates as fans turn off and windows shutter for the winter.

Seasonal Mold Allergies

Seasonal mold allergies may be caused by mold that grows because of seasonal conditions, such as cool, damp air.

In many parts of the U.S., damp and cool air conditions may start in the summer (cool nights after heavy rain are breeding grounds for mold) and continue throughout the fall (fallen leaves may also attract mold, especially after heavy rain).

Late summer and autumn are mold and fungi allergy seasons, so symptoms may be more likely to arise from May through November. Temperatures have started climbing earlier and earlier each year and dropping later and later. Meaning summer and fall allergy seasons are also lasting longer, too.

Symptoms of Mold Allergies

Symptoms of mold allergies may vary, but the most common symptoms include both respiratory and epidermal ones, including:

  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Flaky skin
  • Inflammation
  • Itching
  • Sneezing
  • Watery nose and eyes

Mold Allergy Complications

The list of mold allergy symptoms is long, and this type of allergy may also be accompanied by other conditions.

Since mold spores may enter the respiratory system, mold allergies may be complicated by any type of respiratory condition. People with asthma may especially struggle to breathe easily in structures where mold colonies have been disrupted, causing spores to become airborne.

Mold spores may even land on the skin, causing epidermal issues and complications, too.

You don’t need to have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or allergies, to suffer from mold-related respiratory issues, either. Mold may cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and other symptoms in anyone exposed to airborne spores.  

Mold Vs Toxic Mold

Black mold (otherwise known as toxic mold) is a type of mold that may live in older homes or structures sustaining water damage.

Toxic mold sounds especially dangerous. But while the name sounds particularly daunting, there’s some evidence that this type of mold may not be more dangerous than other types.

Once the cause of “sick building sickness,” black mold has gotten a bad rap because it’s a mycotoxin — or toxins emitted by fungi.

The good news is that there is no proof that black mold may cause the extreme symptoms of sick building syndrome.

Preventing Mold Allergies

One of the most effective ways to prevent mold allergies is to avoid mold altogether. If your home is the source of mold, you may want to make an appointment with a mold removal or mold remediation specialist. If your mold allergies are seasonal, you may want to skip to the next section to find out how to treat both allergies and symptoms.

Avoid cold, damp places

Since mold thrives in cold air and damp places, avoiding these conditions may be your best defense against a mold allergy attack.

Some of the most common breeding grounds for mold include old structures, poorly ventilated structures, wooded areas, bodies of water, overgrown wildlife and leaky basements.

Of course, it’s not always possible to avoid these trigger areas! Missing out on your favorite hiking trail or a family reunion by the lake may not be the most enjoyable way to prevent allergy symptoms.

If mold allergy symptoms are only problematic in certain situations, you may want to treat allergies with medication or address their root cause with allergy immunotherapy.

Get your home checked for mold

If you suspect the source of your mold allergies lies within your home, get your home checked for mold. A mold technician appointment may include a home visit, a swab test and a visual inspection.

Most mold experts may be able to confirm the source of the mold and offer mold removal or remediation services.

At-home mold test kits are also available through hardware stores and department stores. Simply follow the instructions; results may be available within 48 hours.

Waterproof damp areas

If mold is already growing in your home as the result of a leak, still water or flooding, you may want to waterproof these areas of your home in addition to making an appointment for cleanup services.

This may prevent future mold growth.

Waterproofing these areas and cleaning up mold colonies may help prevent further mold allergy symptoms.

You may want to also check your air conditioners, HVAC system and other air filtration systems for mold spores, too. Investing in HEPA air filters may help filter airborne mold spores. HEPA vacuum filters may help contain mold spores picked up by your vacuum, too.

Keeping air filtering throughout your home in the winter by running fans or air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters may also prevent future symptoms.

Treating Mold Allergies

If you are planning to spend time outdoors in an area where mold may grow (camping, hiking, swimming, etc.), you may want to treat your allergies or symptoms with medication or allergy immunotherapy instead.

Avoidance

Natural allergy treatments, including avoidance, are some of the most effective ways to prevent mold allergy symptoms. If you don’t breathe in mold spores, you probably won’t suffer from mold allergy symptoms. If you are able to avoid areas that are more likely to attract mold, you may want to do so.

Avoid wet leaves by avoiding hiking trails, the woods and lawn care for up to several days after heavy rain. Ask another member of your household to take over lawn care duties when mold spore counts are high.

Order a mold test for older homes or apartments (or possible issues that could lead to mold outbreaks) before moving into an outdated structure.

Allergy Medication

Most allergy medications may treat mold allergy symptoms. Yet, you may want to treat these symptoms sporadically and deal with mold issues at the source — either by treating the allergies themselves at the root cause or removing mold from your home altogether.

Respiratory issues may worsen when treating only the symptoms and not the cause of allergies.

Allergy medications that have been proven effective at treating mold allergy symptoms include antihistamines (oral, nasal and ocular) and nasal steroids. You may also want to use a saline spray to flush nasal passages and saline eye drops to wash allergens out of your eyes before bed each night.

Allergy Immunotherapy

Allergy immunotherapy addresses the symptoms of mold allergies at their source. Immunotherapy may help the body stop seeing mold spores as a threat and teach the immune system to stop overreacting to spores as they enter the system.

Subcutaneous Immunotherapy

Subcutaneous immunotherapy may be the most well-known type of allergy immunotherapy in the U.S.

Commonly known as allergy shots, subcutaneous immunotherapy involves injecting small amounts of allergens into the body so the immune system may stop recognizing allergens as a threat.

The amount of allergens injected is so small that it may not cause a full reaction (though doctors may recommend some patients with a history of anaphylaxis may need to be monitored for up to 45 minutes after injections and carry an epinephrine pen in the case of a reaction).

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Curex’s sublingual immunotherapy is similar to allergy shots in that small amounts of allergens are administered and may allow the body to develop a tolerance for allergens.

The difference is that doses are administered orally, usually under the tongue, instead of by way of injection.

Cases of anaphylaxis are rarer with sublingual immunotherapy than with subcutaneous immunotherapy, and patients may self-administer doses at home.

Talk to a Curex clinician to find out if at-home sublingual immunotherapy may help reduce your seasonal allergy symptoms.  

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