Mold allergy is one of the most insidious symptoms. People experience a wide range of various syndromes, with the main allergens found in pets, food, pollen, mold spores, and dust that can cause any number of health problems.

Where is mold found?

The rest of the mold that lives everywhere – from outdoor plants to bathroom walls, the range of these allergens is limitless. Mold is a type of fungus that grows in moisture, either indoors or outdoors.

The number of different species of mold that exist is estimated to range from tens of thousands to even three hundred thousand or more.

Considering the number of potential mold species in the environment, the potential contamination of these mold allergens in the air we breathe every day increases.

This means that you could be suffering from a mold allergy without knowing what is actually causing it.

How does mold grow?

Mold growth occurs and thrives in humid, warm, and dark environments, as these conditions allow mold to speed up its growth process.

Once mold has made its way into your environment, office or home, the mold will start to reproduce and therefore produce mold spores that will begin to travel into the air causing health problems and symptoms for those exposed .

Many studies have found a direct correlation between indoor mold exposure and adverse respiratory health effects , so having a form of protection or treatment plan to mitigate indoor mold is critical to protecting respiratory health.

What is a mold allergy? Is mold an allergen?

When Aspergillus allergies start to appear, mold is generally not something we normally attribute to these allergy outbreaks.

Allergies are one of the most common conditions in the United States, with more than 50 million people, about one in five, experiencing allergy symptoms .

Identifying the exact cause of your allergy symptoms could be a difficult task, but there are a few key signs that can help you determine the allergen at play.

If you’ve experienced symptoms for a prolonged period or particularly when you’re indoors, a mold allergy may be the cause.

Mold is a fungus that reproduces and grows through “seeds” called spores. These spores travel through the air, and inhaling these spores can cause an allergic reaction, also known as a mold allergy , in some people.

Mold spores move almost constantly in the air and therefore can reach the nose and cause the dreaded symptoms associated with allergies.

However, mold spores can also stagnate in your environment, remain dormant for long periods of time (months or even years) and when they reach the ideal environment they will begin to germinate.

Signs and Symptoms of Mold Allergy

According to studies, it is estimated that approximately 10% of the population has IgE antibodies , an antibody induced by allergy to inhaled mold .

However, mold allergy symptoms can be similar to symptoms associated with other allergies.

Therefore, it can be difficult to correctly identify the main allergen that triggers the symptoms you may be experiencing.

If you are allergic to mold, you are likely to experience symptoms such as:

  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Tos
  • Post nasal drip
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Post nasal drip
  • Wheezing
  • Dry skin

In some cases, a mold allergy can even exacerbate asthma symptoms in exposed people.

Mold spores can trigger the reaction of asthma symptoms as they are inhaled into the body.

They can also, in some circumstances, cause late symptoms that can lead to nasal congestion or worsening of asthma over time.

How to determine if you have a mold allergy

Mold doesn’t bother everyone, and not all types of mold are that invasive. In fact, out of thousands of mold species, only a few dozen of these species will trigger health problems, specifically allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America .

Those who are allergic to mold indoors may experience symptoms throughout the year, as symptoms are triggered by mold spores in the environment.

People with allergies and asthma are more likely to experience mold allergy symptoms, as well as certain people who are more sensitive to the effects of mold.

These people include infants and children, the elderly, people whose immune systems are compromised due to HIV infection, cancer, liver disease, chemotherapy or immunosuppressive therapy, and people with chronic lung disease.

When diagnosing a mold allergy, the doctor often performs allergy-specific IgE skin tests or blood tests.

They will use these different types of fungi to scrape or prick the skin to see if a reaction occurs.

This will help indicate a mold allergy and allow you to properly treat yourself and the environment to minimize symptoms in the future.

There are also newer functional labs that can be performed by functional medicine professionals who can identify possible mold allergies.

How to detect mold in the home

Detecting mold begins with odor, according to Dr. Ruth Etzel, a pediatrician and medical epidemiologist with the US Public Health Service.

She notes, ” One of the things I tell people is that the nose is an excellent mold detector .”

Mold has a musty, damp odor caused by microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs), which are substances naturally produced by molds as they grow.

The production of these mVOCs can play an important role in the health of those exposed, as these particles are known to cause severe symptoms when inhaled.

Color or appearance is another factor in detecting mold in the home. There are thousands of different forms of mold, and each will have its own characteristics and appearance compared to other species of mold.

This can help you determine the exact form of mold growth in your home and how toxic it is to your health.

Lastly, the presence of water damage or a leak could contribute to mold growth.

If you’ve experienced flooding, a broken water line, or a washing machine leak, these can all contribute to mold growth.

Especially if you’ve had long-term humidity problems at home, this will eventually lead to the beginning of mold growth in your home. Signs of water damage can include water spots, discoloration, peeling, bubbles, or cracks in paint or wallpaper.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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