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Mold Allergy: Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Molds are small fungi spores that are ubiquitous in nature and can cause allergic reactions. Read this article to know about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nidhin Varghese

Published At November 7, 2022
Reviewed AtJuly 17, 2023

Introduction -

Mold is a type of fungus found everywhere around us, both indoors and outdoors. These mold spores are present in the air that we breathe in. Some individuals may be sensitive to these mold spores, and when they inhale, their immune system overreacts and can cause allergic reactions. It may result in miserable conditions like itchy eyes and restricted breathing. Often the mold allergy is related to asthma and creates breathing difficulty. However, these mold spores are not allergic to everyone. This article explains mold allergy, its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What Are Molds?

The mold and mildew are tiny fungi. These fungal spores are so light that they float in the atmospheric air, and people might breathe in them daily. Spores spread in any climatic conditions; some in dry weather, and some prefer fog or dew in highly humid weather. The molds can grow anywhere and are present indoors and outdoors in living rooms, gardens, and bathrooms. They prefer a dark and damp environment. Four things are essential for their survival that include -

  • Food.

  • Air.

  • Suitable environment.

  • Water.

What Are the Different Types of Molds?

There are several varieties of molds and always keep in mind that not all molds are allergic to everyone. Some of the molds that cause an allergy are -

  • Alternaria.

  • Aspergillus.

  • Cladosporium.

  • Penicillium.

  • Epicoccum.

  • Fusarium.

  • Rhizopus.

  • Mucor.

  • Helmin- Thosporium.

  • Aureobasidium.

One such type, the toxic mold, can result in serious health issues. It is called black mold, which is caused by the fungus Stachybotrys.

What Is Allergy or Allergic Reactions?

It is an adverse reaction in response to the immune system of the body or hypersensitivity to foreign bodies that are inhaled or ingested. This may result in sneezing, wheezing, coughing, skin rashes, and gastrointestinal disturbances. Sometimes there may also be a sudden fall in blood pressure.

What Is Mold Spore Allergy?

As it is already known that mold spores are ubiquitous (omnipresent), so anyone might inhale these mold spores, but does everyone catch up with the allergy? The answer is a big no. Only those individuals with a sensitized immune system are allergic to mold spores. It is referred to as a mold spore allergy if someone is allergic to them.

Is there Any Link Between Mold Allergy And Asthma?

It was in 1924 that Mr. Storm Van Leeuwen put forward his opinion that inhaled fungal spores might cause an asthmatic attack in an individual.

What Are the Symptoms of Mold Allergy?

The symptoms of mold allergy are similar to upper respiratory allergens. Outdoor molds cause allergic reactions during summer, whereas indoor molds can cause allergies throughout the year. The symptoms may vary in each individual, depending on the severity, which includes -

  • Sneezing.

  • Itchy and watery eyes, the eyelids are swollen.

  • Runny nose or nasal congestion.

  • Wheezing, cough, and breathing difficulties.

  • Postnasal drip.

  • Sore throat and nose irritation.

  • Skin gets dry and scaly.

Who Is at Greater Risk of Developing Mold Allergy?

Certain jobs make people more prone to mold exposure. Some of the occupations where people are exposed to these mold spores are -

  • Farmers.

  • Carpenters and furniture repairers.

  • Mill workers, winemakers, and bakers.

  • Daily wage workers.

  • Loggers.

  • Greenhouse employees.

What Are Possible Complications of Mold Allergy?

  • Asthma - When inhaled, mold spores enter the nose and reach the lungs. This may aggravate the asthmatic symptoms in the individual that may lead to cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

  • Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis - In rare cases, it may result in serious illness. Its symptoms are similar to asthmatic symptoms, fever, chest pain, and wheezing.

  • Allergic Fungal Sinusitis - This may cause sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) when inhaled through the nose.

  • Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis - It is a rare condition that causes inflammation of the lungs and causes breathing difficulty.

What Are the Ways to Prevent Mold Exposure?

There is no permanent cure for allergies. The medications will not cure the condition but only ease the symptoms. So it is better to avoid unnecessary exposure to these allergens. Here are a few ways to prevent the condition -

  • Wear a dust mask while engaged in outdoor activities such as gardening.

  • Reduce the humidity inside the house. The indoor humidity should be less than 60 %.

  • Replace the carpet floorings with linoleum and concrete flooring that will not sustain moisture.

  • If mold growth is found in the walls, clean it with vinegar.

  • Repair any leaky faucets, pipelines, and blocked drains.

  • Provide an exhaust fan or open ventilation in the bathrooms.

  • Clean the garbage regularly.

How to Diagnose Mold Allergy?

The doctor usually diagnoses the condition by thorough physical examination and medical history. Then, he looks for the signs and symptoms, and if the allergy is suspected, skin tests and an allergen-specific IgE blood test may be essential to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Skin Prick Test - The diluted amount of allergens is taken for this test. Then, they are applied to the skin surface of the arms or back through small punctures. A small raised bump may be seen at the test location if a person is sensitive to an allergen.

  • Blood Tests - Theradioallergosorbent test is a simple blood test that measures the amount of IgE antibodies in the bloodstream. IgE Immunoglobulin E is specific for allergic reactions. Its levels are increased in cases of any allergy reaction.

How Is Mold Allergy Managed?

The ideal treatment of mold allergy is its prevention. If you come to know that you are allergic, then it is always better to avoid its exposure and unnecessary complications. However, medications are given that improve your symptoms during these allergies.

  • Nasal Corticosteroids - They are used as the first line of treatment. It prevents and also reduces the inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. They are relatively safe and can be used for a longer duration. However, on rare occasions, it may cause bleeding of the nose and nasal dryness. Ciclesonide, Fluticasone, Mometasone, Triamcinolone, and Budesonide are some medications.

  • Antihistamines - Their primary action is blocking the histamine receptors. Histamine is the inflammatory mediator released in response to allergic reactions. These medications may cause dryness of the mouth, such as Loratidine, Fexofenadine, and Cetirizine.

  • Nasal Decongestants - Medications such as Oxymetazoline should be used only for three to four days. If it is used for a longer duration, it may worsen the symptoms when the medication is discontinued.

  • Montelukast - This tablet blocks leukotriene action (substances that cause allergic symptoms). It may cause some individuals anxiety, depression, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts. Hence these medications are to be taken only under the guidance of a doctor.

  • Immunotherapy - This provides long-term relief where small doses of allergens are taken in small shots. This helps to create a natural immunity against the triggering factors. Allergy shots are given to only specific allergies, such as hay fever.

  • Nasal Lavage - This is a commonly encountered home remedy where the nose is cleansed regularly with saline water, distilled, and sterile water. A squeezed bottle is inserted into the nasal passages and gently rinsed. This relieves the nasal passages free from irritants, and the mold spores, if present, are washed away.

Conclusion:

Mold allergy is a common condition seen throughout the world. However, it is not a severe medical condition that one should worry about. Only some individuals with underlying health conditions like asthma or respiratory distress may face serious health conditions. Therefore, the best advice is to limit exposure to these allergens. If a person is known to be allergic, some preventive protocols should be followed during outdoor activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Is the Treatment for Mold Allergy?

The treatment for mold allergy medications is antihistamines. Examples of antihistamines are Loratadine, Fexofenadine, and Cetirizine. These medications cause drowsiness. They also cause dryness in the mouth. Therefore, nasal sprays are also recommended.

2.

How Long Do the Symptoms of Mold Allergy Stay?

The fever from mold allergy subsides in one day, and the affected individuals do not spread the allergy. In two to four days, the other symptoms of the mold allergy subside. The physician recommends consuming the medications for ten days.

3.

Are All Individuals Allergic to Mold?

No, not all individuals are allergic to mold. The mold allergy persists in one out of five individuals. The signs of mold allergy are similar to other allergies.

4.

Will Air Purifiers Remove the Mold?

The air purifiers inhibit the reproduction of the mold. In addition, the purifiers help capture mold spores from the air. The air purifiers do not destroy the spores on surfaces, but they help prevent the spread of mold from the air.

5.

Are There Any Self-Testing Kits for Mold Allergy?

There are mycotoxin tests that are best for testing. These kits required urine samples. They are absolutely painless and very easy to use. The other test for mold allergy is a blood test. With the help of a blood test, one can identify the number of antibodies in response to allergies.

6.

What Are the Trigger Factors for Mold Allergy?

The trigger factors for mold allergy are exposure to elevated levels of household mold and the other factors are exposure to moisture conditions. Severe leakage from pipes, water seepage, and floods are the triggers for mold, and living in these conditions increases the chance of allergy.

7.

Are Mold Allergies Severe at Night?

The mold allergies are severe at night due to sleeping on a bed full of dust mites. The dust mites are more on the pillows and bed sheets. These mites trigger allergies at night.

8.

What Are the Illnesses That Occur Due to Mold?

The dampness in the buildings can increase the formation of mold. Mold causes allergies, respiratory problems, respiratory tract infections, or asthma. In addition, they decrease the fighting capacity of the immune system.

9.

What Are the Signs of Mold Toxicity?

The signs of mold toxicity are severe coughing, itchy eyes, and severe other symptoms of allergy. The high mold toxicity also causes asthma.

10.

What Are the Best Used Air Purifiers for Mold?

The best air purifiers are the ones with humidifiers. These air purifiers decrease mold formation in the air. An example of an air purifier is the Dyson purifier with a humidifier.

11.

How Can One Recover From Mold Exposure?

After mold exposure, the management includes nasal corticosteroids, antihistamines, oral decongestants, and decongestant nasal sprays.

12.

How Does Mold Exposure Affect the Brain?

The mold allergy also affects the brain. It causes fatigue, pain, elevated anxiety, cognitive deficits, and depression. In some patients, there is also memory loss and dementia. This condition is reversible.

13.

Can Mold Spores Grow in the Lungs?

Yes, mold spores develop in the lung cavities. They form due to chronic infections such as tuberculosis, advanced sarcoidosis, and emphysema. They form a lump by adjoining blood clots and white blood cells.
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Dr. Nidhin Varghese
Dr. Nidhin Varghese

Dermatology

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