It can live in basements, bathrooms, under sinks, or in that pile of used damp towels that accumulate on the floor of a teenager’s closet. You can find it outside on fallen trees, plants, or in the cluster of leaves the wind blows to the corner of your yard. Find any damp spot inside your house or out, and chances are you’ll also find mold.
With over 1,000 variations of mold—most of which are invisible to the naked eye—microbial mold spores can easily become airborne and cause chaos to an allergy sufferer’s immune system. While it’s unrealistic to never come in contact with molds, exposure can be limited, and symptoms can be treated.
How do I know I have a mold allergy?
Like most respiratory allergens, mold allergy symptoms can include the following symptoms:
- Post-nasal drip
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy throat
If that list of symptoms sounds familiar, it’s not surprising: Mold symptoms are very similar to hay fever symptoms. Those pesky mold spores lingering in the air make their way into your nose (causing allergy symptoms) and/or your lungs (causing asthma). The allergic reaction might happen right away, or the symptoms could be delayed. When the cause of the mold goes undetected, the symptoms like nasal congestion or asthma can worsen over time. If your symptoms get worse in a damp or moldy room like a basement, there’s a chance you could have a mold allergy.
There are lots of reasons a person can draw the mold allergy short straw. Some are controllable, some not so much. Genetics plays a huge role in whether you’ll be sensitive to molds. If you have a family history of asthma or allergies, chances are you’ll have mold allergies. Your risk also increases if you live or work in a building with high humidity, poor ventilation, frequent leaky pipes or in a facility prone to flooding during rainstorms. If you’re a landscaper, farmer, carpenter, or any other occupation with a high mold exposure rate, you could be prone to developing a mold allergy.
How do doctors diagnose a mold allergy?
As with any suspected allergy, your doctor will assess your full medical history, ask you a series of questions regarding your symptoms (severity, frequency, etc.), and conduct a physical examination. If a mold allergy is suspected, your doctor may do skin tests using diluted amounts of suspected allergens. Or, your doctor may decide to do a blood test to test for sensitivity to various types of mold. The doctor uses all of that information to determine if you have a mold allergy.
Okay, so how do I prevent my exposure to mold?
As with any allergy, the easiest way to treat allergies is to avoid exposure to the trigger – in this case, mold. We know what you’re thinking: Mold is everywhere! How do I avoid it?
Here are some quick tips for how to reduce your risk of exposure to mold:
- Eliminate sources of dampness. Do laundry regularly, make sure bathrooms and basements are well ventilated, and be mindful of leaky pipes.
- Take out trash and clean out garbage cans on a regular basis.
- Use central air conditioning with air filters that are certified allergy and asthma friendly. Change your air filters on a regular basis, approximately every 90 days.
- Use a dehumidifier. Your home should be kept at a humidity level below 50%.
- Make sure you have good groundwater drainage around your home. If you live in an older home, you may want to have a trusted plumber check the condition of your downspouts to ensure they’re draining properly.
- Clear your gutters or install gutter guards to prevent leaves from piling up.
- Trim grass, trees, and shrubs regularly. Keep beds clean and free of accumulated debris.
I’ve done as much as I can to prevent exposure and my symptoms are still flaring up. What now?
When mold allergy symptoms persist and can’t be controlled with over the counter antihistamines and decongestants, it’s time to call the professionals at Allergy & Asthma Care. As allergists, our team is specially trained to pinpoint your specific mold allergy and offer long-term solutions that will have you breathing freely and enjoying the life you were meant to live.