Mold is an essential part of indoor air pollution that must be understood better for anybody that lives and sleeps inside. For several years, mold has been the talk of many health professionals in the media and this is mostly because of the disastrous hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. The record-breaking floods that have not been seen for more than a century have activated severe mold infestations in North America. If you live in one of these water-poisoned areas, you could be sleeping in poison. It’s important to understand the symptoms mold allergy will exhibit on your body to know if you should take action to clear mold from your home.
Mold grows year round and isn’t considered seasonal like other environmental allergies. Mold allergies are progression and, over time, the attacks will be more severe unless the problem is eliminated at its source.
Mold and Your Health
Do you seem to get allergy symptoms when it rains? This may indicate that you have a mold allergy. These are not life-threatening, but they can seriously impact your ability to lead a productive and comfortable daily life.(1)
The primary allergen in mold is the spore. They can be kicked up and float around in the air to be inhaled through your nose.
Mold is a kind of fungus that grows with moisture indoors and outdoors. When the airborne spores attach to a wet surface, it begins to grow. It takes a lot to kill this organism, so unless you are using bleach or drying your home, mold can spread for years.
You could have mold growing in your home without even knowing it. Those who are allergic to mold spores will have more symptoms from midsummer to early fall, but can experience symptoms at any time.
There are no EPA or government-established standards for mold or spore levels in residential or commercial areas because it is impossible to prove that a building or room is in compliance with any regulations regarding mold exposure.
Types of Fungus That We Live With
Mold is a fungus just like mushrooms and yeast. Science has identified more than a thousand kinds of mold growing inside houses in America and Europe. They are classified into three groups according to the symptoms that it gives your body:
- Allergenic Mold: This type is usually not-fatal, but are the most bothersome and can affect your health greatly if you have asthma or an allergy to mold.
- Pathogenic Mold: This type creates a kind of infection in the body, which is detrimental if your immune system is compromised. They can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which resembles pneumonia.
- Toxigenic Mold: This mold produces toxins that can have serious health effects on anybody. Possible diseases that these can produce are cancer and immunosuppression.(2)
The Symptoms Mold Allergy Will Give You
Any environmental allergy is difficult to discern because they will all produce similar symptoms that are not unique to other allergies. Typically, they are all similar to other respiratory allergies, but mold can produce these symptoms:
- Aggravation of Asthma
- Nasal Congestion
- Runny Nose
- Irritated Eyes
- Itchy Throat
- Dry, scaly skin
Just like any allergy, mold allergy symptoms are triggered by an overactive immune system. When you inhale the tiny, airborne spores, your body sees them as foreign invaders and develops antibodies to combat them.(3)
After the initial exposure that had likely occurred when you are a child, your body will “remember” the invader and your immune system will release inflammatory chemicals like histamine to rid the invader from your body. This creates the symptoms of mold allergy.(4)
Most allergic reactions to mold involve a hay-fever type of response that can disrupt your day but it won’t be serious. However, certain allergic conditions caused by mold can be a huge problem.(5)
- Mold-induced asthma. Mold spores can trigger an asthma attack. Be sure to have an emergency plan in place if you are vulnerable to asthma attacks.
- Allergic fungal sinusitis. This is an inflammatory response to fungus produced by the sinuses.
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. This response to mold in the lungs can occur in people with asthma or cystic fibrosis.
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This rare disorder will develop when exposure to mold spores causes the lungs to become inflamed.
Risk Factors for Mold Allergies
A few things can increase your chances of developing an allergy to mold or worsen your symptoms.
- A family history of allergies. If allergies or asthma is a problem in your family, it is more likely to be a problem for you as well.
- Working at a job that exposes you to mold. Occupations like farming, logging, baking, carpentry, greenhouse work, winemaking and furniture repair will expose you to mold daily.
- Living in a home with high humidity. If the inside humidity of your house is higher than fifty percent, you could have increased exposure to mold in your home. Mold can grow anywhere in the right conditions: basements, walls, carpets and other damp surfaces.
- Working or living in a building that has been exposed to excess moisture. Examples include homes that have been damaged by water in the past and leaky pipes can allow moisture to flourish.
- Living or working in a building with poor ventilation. Tight window and door seals will trap moisture indoors and prevent natural ventilation. This creates ideal conditions for mold growth. Damp areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are most vulnerable.
Treatment and Management of Mold Symptoms
If you think that you may have a mold allergy, you should consult an allergist that can diagnose you and recommend unique treatment.
With mold allergies, you could identify the source of the mold by tracking your symptoms and cross-referencing where you’ve been for two weeks. Exposure can occur anywhere—at home, outdoors or at work.
Antihistamines and decongestants can deal with the symptoms in the short-term, but you should always eliminate the problem at its source.
- Physically remove mold spores from your sinuses with a neti pot.
- Quickly clean up liquid spills or leaks to prevent mold growth.
- Use dehumidifiers or open windows to promote natural moisture in every room of your home.
- Regularly clean garbage cans and your refrigerator.
- Regularly clean gutters. These flows direct water to your home’s foundation.
- Consult a professional to clean up mold in your home. This is a great investment for your health.
- Use an air conditioner with a HEPA filter.
- Use a high-quality air purifier to control mold toxins.
Exposure to mold toxins are generally not deadly, but increased exposure can make symptoms worse. Mold allergies are progressive. With time, the attacks will become more severe if the mold isn’t cleaned from your home.(6)
Even if you are not allergic to mold, the spores are toxic to every animal’s immune system. Therefore, thorough cleaning of each and every room is necessary to prevent the growth of mold. Bathrooms and basements are of particular concern. Here, mold can be killed by bleach and dehumidifiers.
Understanding the symptoms mold allergy can give your body will help you better calculate the risks of it being a problem in your home or workplace. Take your and your family’s and guests’ health into consideration and try to get rid of mold in your home as best you can.