Coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes often accompany this common allergy. Find out how to treat this condition and help keep it under control.
If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. A mold allergy can cause coughing, itchy eyes and other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, a mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms.
If you have a mold allergy, the best defense is to reduce your exposure to the types of mold that cause your reaction. Medications can help keep mold allergy reactions under control.
A mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis caused by a mold allergy can include:
Mold allergy symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. You might have year-round symptoms or symptoms that flare up only during certain times of the year. You might notice symptoms when the weather is damp or when you're in indoor or outdoor spaces that have high concentrations of mold.
If you have a mold allergy and asthma, your asthma symptoms can be triggered by exposure to mold spores. In some people, exposure to certain molds can cause a severe asthma attack. Signs and symptoms of asthma include:
If you have a stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath, wheezing or other bothersome symptoms that persist, see your doctor.
Like any allergy, mold allergy symptoms are triggered by an overly sensitive immune system response. When you inhale tiny, airborne mold spores, your body recognizes them as foreign invaders and develops allergy-causing antibodies to fight them.
Exposure to mold spores can cause a reaction right away, or the reaction can be delayed.
Various molds are common indoors and outdoors. Only certain kinds of mold cause allergies. Being allergic to one type of mold doesn't mean you'll be allergic to another. Some of the most common molds that cause allergies include alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium.
A number of factors can make you more likely to develop a mold allergy or worsen your mold allergy symptoms, including:
Living in a house with high humidity. Having indoor humidity higher than 50% can increase mold in your home.
Mold can grow virtually anywhere if the conditions are right — in basements, behind walls in framing, on soap-coated grout and other damp surfaces, in carpet pads, and in the carpet itself. Exposure to high levels of household mold can trigger mold allergy symptoms.
Most allergic responses to mold involve hay fever-type symptoms that can make you miserable but aren't serious. However, certain allergic conditions caused by mold are more severe. These include:
Besides allergens, mold can pose other health risks to susceptible people. For example, mold can cause infections of the skin or mucous membranes. Generally, however, mold doesn't cause systemic infections except for people with impaired immune systems, such as those who have HIV/AIDS or who are taking immunosuppressant medication.
To reduce mold growth in your home, consider these tips:
Besides considering your signs and symptoms, your doctor might conduct a physical examination to identify or exclude other medical problems. Tests used to identify an allergy include:
The best way to manage an allergy is to avoid exposure to triggers. However, molds are common, and you can't completely avoid them.
While there's no sure way to cure allergic rhinitis caused by a mold allergy, a number of medications can ease your symptoms. These include:
Nasal corticosteroids. These nasal sprays help prevent and treat the inflammation caused by an upper respiratory mold allergy. For many people, they're the most effective allergy medications, and they're often the first medication prescribed.
Examples include ciclesonide (Omnaris, Zetonna), fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief, Xhance), mometasone (Nasonex), triamcinolone and budesonide (Rhinocort). Nosebleeds and nasal dryness are the most common side effects of these medications, which are generally safe for long-term use.
Antihistamines. These medications can help with itching, sneezing and runny nose. They work by blocking histamine, an inflammatory chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines include loratadine (Alavert, Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy) and cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy). They cause little to no drowsiness or dry mouth.
The nasal sprays azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) and olopatadine (Patanase) are available by prescription. Side effects of the nasal sprays can include a bitter taste in your mouth and nasal dryness.
Montelukast. Montelukast (Singulair) is a tablet taken to block the action of leukotrienes — immune system chemicals that cause allergy symptoms such as excess mucus. However, concerns about side effects, including anxiety, insomnia, depression and suicidal thinking, are increasing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently put a warning on the box about the drug's use.
Like antihistamines, this medication is not as effective as inhaled corticosteroids. It has been used when nasal sprays cannot be tolerated or when mild asthma is present.
Other treatments for mold allergy include:
Nasal lavage. To help with irritating nasal symptoms, your doctor might recommend that you rinse your nose daily with salt water. Use a specially designed squeeze bottle, such as the one included in saline kits (Sinus Rinse, others), bulb syringe or neti pot to irrigate your nasal passages. This home remedy, called nasal lavage, can help keep your nose free of irritants.
Use water that's distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to make up the irrigation solution. Be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.
To keep mold allergy symptoms at bay, take these measures:
Many people are diagnosed and treated for allergies by their primary care physicians. However, depending on the severity of your allergies, your primary care doctor might refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating allergies.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
For a mold allergy, some questions you might want to ask include:
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:
While you're waiting to see your doctor, there are numerous over-the-counter allergy medications that may ease your symptoms.
If you have visible mold in your home, have someone who's not allergic to mold clean the area using a solution of 1 cup (250 ml) of bleach to 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water or a commercially available mold-cleaning product. If you have to clean up the mold yourself, be sure to wear long rubber gloves, safety goggles and a mask to limit your exposure to the mold.
June 21st, 2021