Most people are exposed to small amounts of mold every day with no negative effects. We may breathe in mold spores that are present in the air or eat foods in which mold has begun to grow. People with mold allergies, however, may have a reaction if exposed to too much of the fungus. If you have allergy symptoms that continue as the seasons change, you may be suffering from mold allergies or other fungi. As with other common allergens such as pollen, mold spores are all around us and are spread by wind outdoors and by air indoors, and can cause allergic reactions to black mold. Some mold spores are released in dry, windy weather; others are released with the fog or dew when humidity is high.
Inhaling mold spores can cause mold allergy symptoms in otherwise perfectly healthy individuals. The most common period for mold allergy symptoms to develop is between July and September; however, with mold growing in so many places, it is not uncommon for allergic reactions to occur throughout the entire year. Although there are thousands of types of mold, only a handful cause significant mold allergies. Some of the most common include: Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Helminthosporium, Aureobasidium, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Phoma, Mucor and Rhizopus.
Mold allergy symptoms are not dissimilar from symptoms related to other allergies, such as animal hair, dust, pollen and other substances. Some of the most common symptoms of black mold include: wheezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, rash or hives, congestion, and dry, scaling skin. Individuals suffering from mold allergies may experience mold allergy symptoms anywhere from a of couple weeks, to an entire Summer, or even year round if the symptoms are caused by indoor molds. In some cases (primarily in children), people may outgrow mold allergies as the immune system becomes desensitized to the allergen over time; however, as a general rule, once a substance causes allergies for an individual, it can continue to affect the person long term.
In order to diagnose mold allergies, doctors will require a complete medical history of the individual, and skin tests will often be taken when a mold allergy seems likely. To test the reaction of mold on the skin, extracts of different types of fungi are used to scratch or prick the skin. If there is no reaction, mold allergies are unlikely. For a small amount of allergic people, the irritation of the test alone can cause a reaction. For that reason, the doctor must use the patient’s medical history, the skin testing results, as well as a physical examination, to diagnose mold allergy symptoms. In the event that a doctor determines that you cannot undergo skin testing, a RAST blood test (to look for IgE antibodies to a specific allergen) may be used.
There are three primary treatments for mold allergies and mold allergy symptoms: avoiding contact with mold spores, taking allergy medications, and receiving allergy shots. Because mold spores are in the air, it is not always possible to avoid mold exposure completely; however, taking precautions to prevent black mold such as reducing indoor humidity, cleaning or replacing contaminated surfaces, and wearing a dust mask while performing yard work, will help reduce mold allergy symptoms. Additionally, antihistamines and decongestants – both of which are available over the counter – as well as corticosteroid nasal sprays, can make a big difference in reducing mold allergy symptoms. The most severe black mold health effects associated with mold allergies may require allergy shots. Either way, it is best to contact your doctor if believe you are suffering from these symptoms.