If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. This triggers a cascade of reactions that lead to allergic symptoms. Like other allergies, a mold allergy can make you cough, make your eyes itch and cause other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, 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. While it isn't always possible to avoid mold allergy triggers, medications can help keep mold allergy reactions under control.
Mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Mold allergy symptoms can include:
Mold allergy symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. You may have year-round symptoms or symptoms that flare up only during certain times of the year. You may 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 may 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 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.
After the exposure has passed, you still produce antibodies that "remember" this invader, so that any later contact with the mold causes your immune system to react. This reaction triggers the release of substances such as histamine, which cause itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and other mold allergy symptoms.
Molds are very common both inside and outside. There are many types, but only certain kinds of mold cause allergies. Being allergic to one type of mold doesn't necessarily mean you'll be allergic to another. Some of the most common molds that cause allergies include alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium.
Although a mold allergy is the most common problem caused by exposure to mold, mold can cause illness without an allergic reaction. Mold can also cause infections or irritant and toxic reactions. Infections caused by mold can lead to a variety of problems from flu-like symptoms to skin infections and even pneumonia.
An irritant reaction is caused when substances from molds called volatile organic compounds irritate the mucous membranes in the body. Symptoms of an irritant reaction are similar to an allergy and include eye irritation, runny nose, cough, hoarseness, headache and skin irritation.
Your doctor will want to know your signs and symptoms and may want to conduct a physical examination to identify or exclude other medical problems. Your doctor may also recommend one or more skin or blood tests to see if you have an allergy that can be identified. These include:
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 may pose other health risks to susceptible people. For example, mold may cause infections of the skin or mucus 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.
Exposure to mold may also irritate eyes, skin, nose and throat in some people. Other possible mold reactions are the subject of ongoing research.
To reduce mold growth in your home, consider these tips:
To keep mold allergy symptoms at bay, take these measures:
A number of factors can make you more likely to develop a mold allergy, or worsen your existing mold allergy symptoms, including: